NAFLD? Don’t Avoid Protein
Unless your physician has told you otherwise (certain conditions require limiting or eliminating certain macro food groups), protein has many benefits to a healthy diet.
It can aid in weight loss by creating a sensation of fullness, keeping insulin spikes slower (v. the quick rise typically experienced with high amounts of carbohydrates at a sitting), and simply by being a satisfyingly tasty addition to your day.
But now there’s even more reason to fire up the grill: a German study says protein can help reduce fat in the liver in those who have an NAFLD condition.
Liver Fat Reduced in Six Weeks
The study, conducted by endocrinologists at the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke (DifE), showed a high-protein diet resulted in positive changes such as reduced liver fat, increased insulin sensitivity, and a reduction of the hormone fibroblast growth factor 21 in the blood.
Changes were noted and recorded over a six-week period.
Details About the Study
For the study, 37 individuals (male and female) ages 49-78 with Type II diabetes were recruited.
Two diets were utilized: a plant-based high protein diet, and an animal-based protein diet.
The plant-based diet added protein, such as peas, to up the protein quantity so levels were even for all participants.
The diets were approximately equally effective and positive results were recorded for both groups.
Should Some People Not Eat Protein?
You may have heard criticisms of high-protein diets, particularly hints that the kidneys may be “overstressed” and compromised.
Generally, a diet with a fair amount of protein will not harm an otherwise healthy individual.
People who should monitor their protein intake or avoid excessive protein include:
- Individuals with specific types of kidney disease; check with your doctor for specific recommendations
- Individuals whose doctors have recommended restriction of protein due to heart disease (NOTE: not all heart issues require a protein restriction)
- Individuals who are on a low-carbohydrate diet and utilize protein in place of higher carb but healthy items, such as fruits and vegetables (NOTE: the caution here is ONLY if you are not receiving all key nutrients due to overreliance on one specific food group – this holds true of any form of diet)
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Recommendations change over time and your personal protein intake recommendation may be different due to varying health needs.
In general, it is recommended that adults get 10-35% of their daily calories in the form of protein. This translates to about 45 grams for the average woman and 55 grams for the average man. These recommendations are minimums.
For children: ask your child’s pediatrician. If your child has an NAFLD condition, do not up his/her protein intake o otherwise significantly modify her diet without asking her doctor first.
What if You’re Vegetarian/Vegan?
If you have been living a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle for some time, you probably already know how to get adequate protein from plant foods. But if you’re just begun this way of eating, look up resources for putting together complete-protein meals so you know you’re getting your recommended amount. Here’s a good starter article on veganism and protein.
Remember that the study referenced in this article found positive changes with both animal- and plant-based diets. A vegetarian or vegan diet is a nutritionally adequate and complete, and very healthy lifestyle, as is a diet that includes animal proteins; the choice is up to you.