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Overload of Fatty Foods Can Park in Liver

Presence there can curtail organ's ability to filter fats through body, study says

TUESDAY, May 3, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- If you eat too many fatty foods, the fat can travel directly to your liver and damage it, says a University of Minnesota study in the May 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

This is the first study to implicate a high-fat diet as a cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), where fat builds up in the liver, a place it doesn't belong. Identifying the sources of accumulated fat in the livers of people with NAFLD may help find ways to prevent and reverse the condition, which can lead to more serious liver problems.

"This is the first scientific proof of dietary fat stored in the liver in humans. In health, it's the liver's job to store glycogen, a storage form of carbohydrates -- not fat," study leader Elizabeth Parks, an associate professor of human nutrition, said in a prepared statement.

The findings suggest that too much dietary fat can cause the liver to fail to take in dietary fat, process it and ship it on its way via the blood.

In healthy people, very little fat is stored in the liver. About half the fat from a meal is burned for energy and the rest is sent to adipose tissue, where it's stored until it's needed as energy fuel when a person is fasting.

In this study, Parks and her team analyzed liver biopsies from obese people with NAFLD. The liver tissue from these patients contained globules of fat -- about 20 percent of it was dietary fat. The tissue also revealed that these patients' livers had elevated synthesis of fat from dietary carbohydrates.

"The bottom line is this is a clear implication that if one eats too much fat, as in the film Super Size Me, fat becomes deposited in the liver. This leads to a kind of liver toxicity that would be good to avoid," Parks said.

More information

The American Liver Foundation has more about nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

SOURCE: University of Minnesota, news release, May 2, 2005
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