High Cholesterol Diet May Accelerate Fatty Liver Disease

The link between a high-fat, high-sugar diet and fatty liver disease is well known, but a new study by researchers at USC’s Keck School of Medicine has found that cholesterol can affect the progression of fatty liver disease .

Posted in Frontiers in immunologythe lab study found that a high cholesterol intake can increase the likelihood of fatty liver disease progressing to cirrhosis, which causes inflammation and scarring that can persist despite switching to a low-cholesterol diet, as well as cancer of the liver.

The study also found that a diet high in cholesterol can lead to long-term dysfunction in a group of immune cells known to play a role in fatty liver disease.

“We’ve seen that you can have a diet high in fat and sugar, but when you add high cholesterol to it, it speeds up the process that causes inflammation in your liver,” said corresponding author Ana Maretti. -Mira, PhD, an assistant research professor of medicine at USC, in a Keck press release. “People focus on high cholesterol as a risk for heart disease, but we’ve shown that your liver can also be affected, causing inflammation, scarring and, potentially, cirrhosis.”

For the study, the researchers divided the mice into three groups and fed them different levels of cholesterol in their food for six months, or about half the lifespan of a mouse.

After six months, mice in all three groups accumulated fat on their livers, a harmless symptom of fatty liver disease, but the group with the highest cholesterol levels had more advanced disease, characterized by increased inflammation and scar tissue.

Maretti-Mara noted that the high-fat, high-sugar diet given to the mice in the study is similar to the average Western diet in humans. She also pointed out that instead of eliminating cholesterol completely, people should eat it in moderation because our bodies need a certain amount of fat, including cholesterol, to function properly.

“It’s all about balance,” Maretti-Mira said. “If what you eat and how much you eat is causing this excessive inflammation of your liver, it’s time to take care of yourself. Change your diet and exercise more so you can burn that fat in the liver, as it can cause long-term damage.

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