Obesity-related hepatic steatosis is a major risk factor for metabolic and cardiovascular disease. Fat reduced hypocaloric diets are able to relieve the liver from ectopically stored lipids. We hypothesized that the widely used low carbohydrate hypocaloric diets are similarly effective in this regard. A total of 170 overweight and obese, otherwise healthy subjects were randomized to either reduced carbohydrate (n = 84) or reduced fat (n = 86), total energy restricted diet (-30% of energy intake before diet) for 6 months. Body composition was estimated by bioimpedance analyses and abdominal fat distribution by magnetic resonance tomography. Subjects were also submitted to fat spectroscopy of liver and oral glucose tolerance testing. In all, 102 subjects completed the diet intervention with measurements of intrahepatic lipid content. Both hypocaloric diets decreased body weight, total body fat, visceral fat, and intrahepatic lipid content. Subjects with high baseline intrahepatic lipids (>5.56%) lost ≈7-fold more intrahepatic lipids compared with those with low baseline values (<5.56%) irrespective of diet composition. In contrast, changes in visceral fat mass and insulin sensitivity were similar between subgroups, with low and high baseline intrahepatic lipids.
Conclusion: A prolonged hypocaloric diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat has the same beneficial effects on intrahepatic lipid accumulation as the traditional low-fat hypocaloric diet. The decrease in intrahepatic lipids appears to be independent of visceral fat loss and is not tightly coupled with changes in whole body insulin sensitivity during 6 months of an energy restricted diet.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00956566.
Copyright © 2011 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.