Diets high in protein and cholesterol are linked with a higher risk of hospitalization or death due to cirrhosis or liver cancer, while diets high in carbohydrates are associated with a lower risk, according to the latest research.
Researchers, led by George Ioannou of Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, investigated whether dietary nutrient composition was associated with the subsequent development of cirrhosis or liver cancer in a representative sample of the US population.
They utilized 9,221 participants from the National Health Examination Survey.
Participants were excluded if they suffered from cirrhosis or liver cancer at the start of the study, or received a diagnosis within five years, said a Veterans Affairs release.
During the follow-up period, an average of 13.3 years, 123 participants received a new diagnosis of cirrhosis (118 people) or liver cancer (5 people) according to hospitalization records and death certificates.
These individuals were more likely to be older, more obese with more central fat distribution. They had lower educational attainment and higher alcohol consumption, and were more likely to be male, diabetic and non-white.
Dietary nutrient composition was a strong predictor of hospitalization or death due to liver cancer in the US population.
“In particular, we identified that protein and cholesterol consumption were associated with elevated risk, whereas consumption of carbohydrates was associated with reduced risk of hospitalization or death related to liver cancer,” the authors reported.
The association with cholesterol intake is potentially the most important finding of this study, the authors suggested.
While cholesterol is well-known for its role in non-hepatic diseases like atherosclerosis, it has never before been linked to human liver disease.
The findings suggest that drugs blocking intestinal cholesterol absorption might reduce the progression of fatty liver disease but this needs to be investigated in prospective studies.
These findings were published in the July issue of Hepatology .