The usual advice given to sufferers of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is to lose weight and to eat less of this or that.
But a new study in Cell Metabolism states the opposite. To heal NAFLD, eat as much as you can of a specific, everyday ingredient.
Best of all, it’s found in many of the foods you’re already consuming. You just need to eat more of it.
Resistant starch is a type of starch that our bodies can’t digest in the small intestine. Instead, digestion occurs in the large intestine where it is fermented by gut bacteria. Some scientists believe it can positively influence our gut health and, as a result, other aspects of our well-being.
A new study, led by scientists from Friedrich Schiller University in Germany, aimed to see if this humble starch could make a real difference for those with NAFLD. Over 200 patients participated, and they were split into two groups: one took a resistant starch supplement and the other a control starch for four months.
The main outcome was encouraging.
Those who took the resistant starch showed a 9.08% reduction in liver fat.
However, the effects were not limited to fat reduction. The research showed that this starch could also reduce harmful liver enzymes and bring down levels of certain amino acids and gut bacteria linked to liver health issues.
One gut bacterium, named Bacteroides stercoris, which is strongly associated with NAFLD progression, was significantly reduced.
As such, the magic behind resistant starch lies in our colony of gut bacteria. As the starch ferments in the large intestine, it has the potential to alter our gut microbiome in a way that benefits our livers.
This connection between the gut and liver is so strong that scientists even have a name for it: the gut-liver axis.
The researchers commented that the idea of using food to treat NAFLD, especially foods targeting the gut microbiome, had been floated for some time. But until now, no substantial study has tested the potential of microbiome-focused foods to manage liver disease.
So, which foods contain resistant starch?
1. Legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
2. Whole grains such as oats, barley, and brown rice.
3. Green bananas.
4. Potatoes and rice that have cooled after cooking, which can be eaten as potato or rice salad.
Together with the beneficial effects on the liver, the study also found that resistant starch helped participants to lose weight. As obesity is a risk factor for a multitude of conditions, from NAFLD to diabetes to heart disease, weight loss achieved through only a simple change in diet is ideal.
Interestingly, for years I have been teaching people to heal NAFLD by increasing beneficial species of gut bacteria. Resistant starch is only one piece of the puzzle. To eliminate your NAFLD, you need to take a few more simple steps, explained here…