Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Boston, Massachusetts » Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #354887

Research Project: Cardiovascular Nutrition and Health

Location: Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging

Title: Improved diet quality associates with reduction in liver fat-particularly in individuals with high genetic risk scores for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Author
item Ma, Jiantao - National Institutes Of Health (NIH)
item Hennein, Rachel - National Institutes Of Health (NIH)
item Liu, Chunyu - National Institutes Of Health (NIH)
item Long, Michelle - Boston University
item Hoffmann, Udo - Massachusetts General Hospital
item Jacques, Paul - Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging At Tufts University
item Lichtenstein, Alice - Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging At Tufts University
item Hu, Frank - Harvard University
item Levy, Daniel - National Institutes Of Health (NIH)

Submitted to: Gastroenterology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/19/2018
Publication Date: 3/29/2018
Citation: Ma, J., Hennein, R., Liu, C., Long, M.T., Hoffmann, U., Jacques, P.F., Lichtenstein, A.H., Hu, F., Levy, D. 2018. Improved diet quality associates with reduction in liver fat-particularly in individuals with high genetic risk scores for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Gastroenterology. 155(1):107-117. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2018.03.038.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2018.03.038

Interpretive Summary: The incidence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), an abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver, has increased dramatically in the U.S. Little is known about the relationship between diet quality and NAFLD. Our aim was to determine whether there is a significant relationship between change in diet quality and change in liver fat content and test whether improvements in diet quality modify genetic risk for developing NAFLD. Change in liver fat was assessed using liver-phantom ratio (LPR) on computed tomography in 1,581 Framingham Heart Study participants. Change in diet quality was assessed using two diet scores - the Mediterranean-style diet and Alternative Healthy Eating Index. During a six year period improved diet quality was associated with either stable or less accumulation in liver fat, regardless of which score was used to evaluate diet quality, compared to deteriorated diet quality, which was associated with an increase in liver fat. In those individuals with a high genetic risk for NAFLD those with improved diet quality accumulated less liver fat compared to those with a worsened diet score. These data indicate that improved diet quality, reflected by two independent diet scores, was associated with reduced risk for new-onset or worsening of NAFLD and suggest improved diet quality is particularly important for individuals with a high genetic risk for NAFLD.

Technical Abstract: Background & Aims: Dietary modification has been recommended for treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), although it is not clear whether improving diet quality can prevent its development. We performed a prospective study to examine the association between diet quality change and change in liver fat change. We also examined the association between genetic risk score and liver fat change in individuals with different levels of diet quality change. Methods: Our study included 1521 participants who attended the seventh and eighth examinations (1998-2001 and 2005-2008) of the second-generation cohort or attended the first and second examinations (2002-2005 and 2008-2011) of the third-generation cohort in the Framingham Heart Study. The self-administered semi-quantitative 126-item Harvard food frequency questionnaire was used to determine dietary intake in the year leading up to an examination. We assessed levels of liver fat using liver-phantom ratio (LPR) and computed tomography images from 2002 through 2005 and again from 2008 through 2011. LPR values are inversely related to liver fat-increased LPR indicates decreased liver fat. We examined associations of changes in 2 diet scores-the Mediterranean-style diet score (MDS) and Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI)-with changes in liver fat and new-onset fatty liver. We evaluated interactions between diet score change and a weighted genetic risk score for NAFLD, determined based on multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms identified in genome-wide association studies of NAFLD. The primary outcome was change in LPR between baseline and follow-up measurement. Results: For each 1-standard deviation increase in MDS, the LPR increased (meaning liver fat decreased) by 0.57 (95% CI, 0.27-0.86; P<.001) and the odds for incident fatty liver decreased by 26% (95% CI, 10%-39%; P=.002). For each 1-standard deviation increase in AHEI, LPR increased by 0.56 (95% CI, 0.29-0.84; P<.001) and the odds for incident fatty liver decreased by 21% (95% CI, 5%-35%; P=.02). Increased diet scores were also associated with reduced odds of developing more-advanced fatty liver. Higher genetic risk scores were associated with increased liver fat accumulation in participants who had decreased MDS (P<.001) or AHEI scores (P=.001), but not in those with stable or improved diet scores (P for gene-diet interaction <.001). Conclusions: In an analysis of participants in the Framingham Heart Study, increasing diet quality, determined based on MDS and AHEI scores, is associated with less liver fat accumulation and reduced risk for new-onset fatty liver. An improved diet is particularly important for individuals with a high genetic risk for NAFLD.