Alternate-day fasting a good option for patients with fatty liver disease

In a new study about the effects of alternate-day fasting, nutrition researchers found that the diet, combined with exercise, improved the health of people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Study author Krista Varady, professor of nutrition, called the findings “pretty amazing.”

About 65% of obese adults have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is strongly related to the development of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. If left unchecked, fatty liver disease can lead to more serious complications like cirrhosis or liver failure, but there are limited drug options for treatment.

The researchers reported that over three months, people who exercised and followed alternate-day fasting—eating without restriction one day and eating 500 calories or less the next—had increased insulin sensitivity and decreased liver fat, weight and other markers for liver disease.

“When we compared the results of our study groups, we saw clearly that the most improved patients were in the group that followed the alternate-day fasting diet and exercised five days a week,” Varady said.

“The people who only dieted or only exercised did not see the same improvements, which reinforces the importance of these two relatively inexpensive lifestyle modifications on overall health and on combating chronic diseases like fatty liver disease.”

The 80 study participants were divided into four groups: an alternate-day fasting group, an aerobic exercise group, a combined group and a control group who made no changes to their behaviors.

The researchers also found that compared to other participants, the group who combined exercise and fasting experienced reduced body weight, fat mass and waist circumference.

The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Co-authors include Mark Ezpeleta, KN assistant professor Kelsey Gabel, Sofia Cienfuegos, Faiza Kalam, Shuhao Lin, Vasiliki Pavlou, KN professor Zhenyuan Song, Jacob M. Haus, Sean Koppe, Shaina J. Alexandria and KN associate professor Lisa Tussing-Humphreys.

This article has been edited for length and clarity by Sonya Booth.