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Ann Fernholm

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Intestinal Bacteria That Convert Carbohydrates To Alcohol Can Contribute To Fatty Liver

Chinese scientists have now shown that a type of gut bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae can potentially contribute to fatty liver. The bacteria converts carbohydrates from food into alcohol, which in turn causes a fat production in the liver. The finding may help explain why a strict low carbohydrate diet leads to a reduction of fat in the liver.

The discovery that the Chinese scientists are now publishing in the scientific journal Cell Metabolism is the result of real detective work. It began with a patient who had severe fatty liver and auto brewery syndrome, an unusual disease in which the body produces alcohol. After eating a high carbohydrate diet, the person had high levels of alcohol in the blood, even though the food was completely non-alcoholic.

Initially, the doctors gave the patient medication for fungus in the gut, but it did not help. Instead, they succeeded in isolating alcohol-producing variants of bacteria- Klebsiella pneumoniae- from the patient’s intestines. When they introduced these bacteria into mice, the mice also developed fatty liver.

When researchers compared people with and without fatty liver, they found that 60 percent of all those with fatty liver had alcohol-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae in their intestines. The corresponding figure for people without fatty liver was around 6 percent.

A strict low carbohydrate diet can help with fatty liver

An epidemic of fatty liver is spreading worldwide and sufferers have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver cancer. High sugar consumption is likely to be a major cause of this epidemic, as an overdose of sugar can cause  fat formation in the liver. What this study shows is that the production of alcohol in the intestines, caused by a large amount of carbohydrates in the food, may also contribute to the problems. Though this needs to be investigated in several studies to see if it applies to people in other parts of the world as well.

If food carbohydrates cause fatty liver, then one could presumably conclude that a diet which minimizes the amount of carbohydrates should help against fatty liver. An those conclusion seem to be backed up by a study from last year which showed that, a strict low-carbohydrate diet can radically reduce the amount of fat in the liver just a matter of days. You can read about this on the Dietary Science Foundation website.

The Dietary Science Foundation has contributed to a larger study in which researchers tested the effect of both a strict low carbohydrate diet and 5:2 fasting on patients with fatty liver. Results from it are expected to come next year. This study is also supporting evidence that a strict low carbohydrate diet helps, it is an important breakthrough. Perhaps then people who have a hard time getting rid of their problems today will be able to get more effective treatment.

This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.

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