The typical Western diet, which is more common in the United States, is high in fat, sugar and cholesterol.
Past studies revealed that such a diet affects a person's physique and heart health as well as increases a person's risk for developing breast cancer tumors. This diet also causes levels of blood sugar to rise, consequently resulting in kidney damage.
Meanwhile, liver damage caused by this high-sugar, high-fat and high-cholesterol diet may be difficult to reverse, but experts said a low-sugar diet can counter its effects, even if done slowly.
Low-Fat And Low-Cholesterol Diet May Help, But Not Completely
In a study featured in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from Oregon State University discovered that a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet helped but did not completely resolve the damage on the liver. What's worse is that the liver damage can turn into more serious problems such as cirrhosis or cancer, the study said.
By examining laboratory animals, the research team showed that low-fat and low-cholesterol diets can aid in weight loss and improve metabolism and health. But if the diet was still high in sugar, it would contribute less to liver recovery. In turn, a diet low in sugar is the solution, experts said.
These findings are significant because cases of liver problems such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease are rising in the U.S., affecting 10 to 35 percent of adults and children in the country, researchers said.
Professor Donald Jump, principal investigator of the study, said Americans are used to eating the Western diet. Some are developing extensive hepatic fibrosis or the scarring of their liver. This reduces the liver's capacity to function and can lead to cancer, he said.
Jump added that there are many ways to help the liver recover from damage, but their findings suggest that low-fat and low-cholesterol diets are not enough.
"For more significant liver recovery, the intake of sugar has to come down, probably along with other improvements in diet and exercise," said Jump.
Five Ways To Reduce Sugar Intake
Reducing your sugar intake will definitely benefit your body. Aside from helping reduce liver damage, you'll also be giving your pancreas a favor. Studies have shown that too much intake of sugar can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Drinking or eating less sugar can be done in five ways:
1. Read food labels and learn the other terms for sugar. Diane Sanfilippo, a nutrition consultant, said that being aware of the sugar added on food will help you know which to avoid. It's also wise to learn to look for words on food labels aside from "sugar." Like a double agent, sugar has many names. These include fructose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, molasses, dried cane syrup, honey, maple syrup and brown rice syrup.
2. Slowly reduce your sugar intake. Cutting down on sugar doesn't happen overnight. You also can't completely quit sugar by pledging to never eat anything with it ever again. What experts suggest is to cut back slowly. If you usually put two packets of sugar in your coffee, try putting one in a week, then half, and then switch to only a pack of milk.
3. Don't switch to sugar-free candy or diet soda. Artificial sweeteners are a no-no, experts said. These chemicals that usually come from sugar-free candy or diet soda can mess up your taste for what is sweet.
"When you eat something sweet, your body expects calories and nutrition, but artificial sugars don't give your body those things," said Sanfilippo. A 2010 study issued in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine found a link between artificial sweeteners and weight gain.
4. Use vanilla extract, spices or citrus zests to add sweetness to your food. Natural sweeteners in fruits and vegetables may taste much sweeter than the artificial ones. Using cinnamon, vanilla powder or cocoa on your food can also account to zero calories, experts said. A study featured in the Journal of Medicinal Food even found that cinnamon naturally regulates blood sugar, helping the body control appetite.
5. Stick to your plan. Cutting down your sugar intake may seem like an impossible feat because sugar is ubiquitous, but it is not impossible. Eventually, after days and weeks of execution, your taste buds will adjust to your newfound lifestyle.