Washington: Dietary substitution of saturated fats enriched in medium chain triglycerides (MCT) for polyunsaturated fat prevents the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to new research.
The study was carried out by scientists at the Arkansas Children`s Nutrition Center, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Human Nutrition Research Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
NAFLD occurs in patients with obesity and type II diabetes and is being seen at younger ages in association with the obesity epidemic. NAFLD is characterized by excessive accumulation of fat in the liver.
In a proportion of NAFLD cases, liver pathology progresses to hepatitis, fibrosis and liver cancer.
The findings used a laboratory animal model of NAFLD to demonstrate that isocaloric substitution of a mixture of MCT rich saturated fats for of dietary polyunsaturated fats prevented liver fat accumulation. In addition progression of injury was blocked as a result of reduced susceptibility of lipids to radical attack and increased basal metabolic rate produced by activation of PPAR signaling.
"There is a real shortage of potential therapies for NAFLD short of weight loss and increased exercise" stated Dr. Martin Ronis, who led the study.
"In this study, we show that even if total dietary fat content remains high and excess calories continue to be consumed, the metabolic effects of MCT to change liver lipid profiles and increase respiration can prevent the development of liver pathology," he said.
Although complete substitution of MCT oil for vegetable oils in cooking is not feasible as a result of its low smoking point, the studies demonstrated that the protective effects of MCT were dose-dependent.
Dr. Ronis stated that future studies would be designed to determine if MCT rich diets can reverse NAFLD and nonalcoholic steato hepatitis in disease models, and if successful, clinical trials may be initiated in patients with metabolic syndrome.
Dr. Ronis added that the technology to produce synthetic cooking oils incorporating MCT is already there.
The research appeared in the February 2013 issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine.