Effects of dietary interventions on liver volume in humans

Authors


  • Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

  • Author contributions: HB: analysis of MRI data, statistical analyses and interpretation of the data, drafting the manuscript; AH: expertise on MRI analyses; NL: analysis of MRI images; HY: research design, analysis and interpretation of the data, drafting and critical revision of the manuscript, study supervision.

Abstract

Objective

To compare effects of similar weight loss induced either by a short-term low-carbohydrate or by a long-term hypocaloric diet, and to determine effects of high carbohydrate overfeeding on liver total, lean, and fat volumes.

Methods

Liver total, lean, and fat volumes were measured before and after (i) a 6-day low-carbohydrate diet (n = 17), (ii) a 7-month standard hypocaloric diet (n = 26), and (iii) a 3-week high-carbohydrate diet (n = 17), by combining magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) techniques.

Results

At baseline, three groups were comparable with respect to age, body mass index, liver volumes and the liver fat content. Body weight decreased similarly by the short-term and long-term hypocaloric diets. Liver total volume decreased significantly more during the short-term low-carbohydrate (−22 ± 2%) than the long-term (−7 ± 2%) hypocaloric diet (P < 0.001). This was due to a greater decrease in liver lean volume in the short-term (−20 ± 2%) than the long-term (−4 ± 2%) weight loss group (P < 0.001). Decreases in liver fat were comparable. Liver volume increased by 9 ± 3% due to overfeeding (P< 0.02 for before vs. after).

Conclusions

These data support the use of a short-term low-carbohydrate diet whenever a reduction in liver volume is desirable. Overeating carbohydrate is harmful because it increases liver volume.

Ancillary