Purpose of review: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver disease worldwide and it has overlapping pathogenesis with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Reviewed here are recent advances in understanding the contribution of diet and selected nutrients to NAFLD.
Recent findings: To understand the effect of diet, the microbiome must be considered because it is the interface of diet and the liver. Early studies suggest that the characteristic of the microbiota is altered in NAFLD. Fructose is a lipogenic carbohydrate that contributes to insulin resistance, hypertriglyceridemia and appears to be associated with the severity of NAFLD. Fructose absorption and malabsorption may alter the microbiota and could be mediating effects on the liver. Lipids also have potent microbiome interactions and could contribute to the benefit of diets emphasizing lipid changes. Several new studies demonstrate that the Mediterranean diet and ‘lifestyle change’ are effective in modestly improving NAFLD. A new study of ‘lifestyle’ in children showed simultaneous improvement in cardiovascular disease risk measurements and hepatic steatosis.
Summary: Current data supports limiting sugar in the diet and ‘lifestyle change’ as a first-line treatment for NAFLD; however, the benefits from these appear to be modest. The effects of diet on the liver are mediated through the microbiome and expansion of research in this area is needed.