Background: To investigate the effects of varied therapeutic lifestyle programs on patients with ultrasound-diagnosed nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Methods: A prospective, case-controlled study was conducted. A total of 54 subjects with NAFLD were subdivided into 3 groups: (1) diet plus exercise group (DPE group, n = 16); (2) exercise group (E group, n = 23); and (3) control group (C group, n = 15). The DPE group received a low-calorie balanced diet and regular high-intensity stationary bicycle exercise program for 10 weeks, while the E group received the same exercise protocol as the DPE group but without any changes in diet. Anthropometric indices, biochemical data, physical fitness data and liver ultrasound findings were recorded. A generalized estimating equation method was used to determine the differences among groups.
Results: Compared with the C group, the DPE group demonstrated significant improvements in anthropometric indices, total cholesterol, insulin sensitivity, liver biochemistry, ultrasound finding and physical fitness, while the E group showed significant improvements in anthropometric indices, insulin sensitivity status, ultrasound finding and physical fitness but not liver biochemistry. Compared with the E group, the DPE group showed greater reduction in anthropometric indices (body mass index, body weight, abdominal circumference, hip circumference), total cholesterol, alanine aminotransferase, and gamma-glutamyltransferase.
Conclusion: Our data suggest that both 10-week diet-plus-exercise and exercise-only therapeutic lifestyle programs are effective for improving anthropometric indices, insulin sensitivity, ultrasound findings and physical fitness in ultrasound-diagnosed NAFLD patients. However, the range of improvement in patients on the diet-plus-exercise program is more obvious than that in patients on the exercise-only program. Moreover, the diet-plus-exercise program resulted in significant improvement in liver biochemistry, but the exercise-only program did not. In summary, diet plus exercise is more efficacious than exercise alone in the lifestyle modification treatment of NAFLD.