A study suggests that combining aerobic exercise such as swimming and fasting may benefit people with liver disease.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is characterized by an accumulation of fat in the liver. Fat buildup in the liver isn’t initially dangerous, but it can put people at risk for other health problems. Data from a recent study suggests that combining aerobic exercise, or cardio, with intermittent fasting may improve non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The liver is a crucial organ in the body that can influence many aspects of health. Fat buildup in the liver, called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is becoming more common in some countries. Researchers are still working to understand the full impact of NAFLD and the best lifestyle choices to reduce fat accumulation in the liver.

A recent study looked at the effectiveness of intermittent fasting and aerobic exercise in reducing fat accumulation in the liver. The researchers found that the combination of these two methods was effective in reducing fat levels in the liver. The study is published in the journal Cell Metabolism

The impact of fatty liver disease

We speak of NAFLD when fat accumulates in the liver. Under this general term hide two subtypes: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFL) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). We speak of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease when there is simply an accumulation of fat but no damage to the liver. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is characterized by fat accumulation, liver inflammation and liver damage. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is increasingly common, with a high prevalence in obese or diabetic adults in particular.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a medical condition when excessive fat builds up in the liver. It can cause inflammation of the liver, scarring and eventually cirrhosis. This condition has become a very common chronic liver disease. People with obesity and type 2 diabetes are at particularly high risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by itself does not necessarily lead to more serious liver problems, but it can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.

People with NAFLD can make helpful lifestyle changes, such as reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. However, specialists continue to research the best measures for people with NAFLD.

Combine fasting and exercise for the liver

This particular study was a randomized controlled trial. The study authors conducted the trial over three months and included 80 participants in their analysis. They wanted to examine the effectiveness of different lifestyle interventions in improving liver fat content. All participants suffered from obesity and NAFLD.

The researchers noticed that the main lifestyle therapy for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) combined daily calorie restriction with aerobic exercise. They were curious if intermittent fasting combined with aerobic exercise would produce the same reductions in liver fat.

Intermittent fasting involves eating only during certain time intervals or having specific days with heavy calorie restriction. Researchers assigned participants to one of four groups to measure improvement in fatty liver disease. The first group participated in regular moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. The second group participated in alternate fasting, meaning they only consumed about 600 calories on fasting days, and alternated with feast days, where their diet was not restricted. The third group participated in both an exercise program and intermittent fasting. Finally, the last group was a control group without any intervention.

The combination group demonstrated a variety of improvements, some of which were greater than those of the other intervention groups.

indeed, the researchers found that liver fat was reduced by 5.5% in the group that participated in both fasting and exercise. This combined group also reduced body weight by 5%, fat mass, waist circumference and liver enzyme (ALT) levels. They also found an increase in insulin sensitivity in the combined group, indicating better blood sugar control. The researchers found that the reduction in liver fat and body weight was similar between the combined group and the group that only participated in intermittent fasting.

They also found that all three intervention groups saw a similar improvement in insulin resistance. Thus, the combined intervention might be an option for people with NAFLD, but is not necessarily a far superior method.

This study adds to the current literature regarding the benefits of fatty liver weight loss. It agrees with many other studies that calorie restriction is a key part of weight control. Based on this study, alternate day fasting is believed to be adopted as a beneficial strategy by clinicians and patients for weight control and the treatment of fatty liver.

Study limitations

The study had some limitations that are important to consider. First, the study included a limited number of participants and lasted only a short time. More than 80% of the participants were women. This fact, along with the ethnicity of the participants, points to the need for more diverse research. Second, the combined intervention showed improvements in the liver, but not a return to a healthy level, which could indicate the need for people with NAFLD to pursue additional interventions. It is also unclear whether the interventions would be effective in people with more severe NAFLD. Due to the baseline numerical differences between the groups, it was possible to observe larger mean absolute differences in the combined intervention group.

Finally, this study only lasted three months. The next step would be to conduct longer term trials in this area (6-12 months). This will help us determine if these improvements can be sustained over longer periods of time.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.