Nutrition Links to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

By Kurtis Chien-Young

A study from Rotterdam surveyed a population of overweight, elderly citizens in the Netherlands, and found that diets high in animal protein were significantly correlated with a higher risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD occurs when the build up of fat cells in the liver reaches 5% of the hepatocytes, or liver cells. The condition stems from the consumption of animal product and processed foods. It is often comorbid to obesity, and can lead to burdensome health outcomes, such as liver-tissue scarring, liver failure, and cancer.

Approximately 1 billion people suffer from NAFLD, and the disease is most prevalent in developed, Western countries. This may result from the higher density of animal protein and calories in a typical Western diet. Consumption of animal protein has been linked with malfunctions in to the body’s homeostasis and ability to metabolize glucose.

The study recognizes that consumption of macronutrients such as animal protein is only one of the risk factors for the development of NAFLD, and that a greater concern lies in the variation of one’s diet. Simply replacing the intake of animal protein or other macronutrients yielded no meaningful results in the study’s participants. Given this, it is recommended that a focus is placed on adhering to a nutrient-diverse diet rather than on removing any given nutrient, such as fat or animal protein.


European Association for the Study of the Liver. "Diet high in animal protein is associated with NAFLD in overweight people: Significant associations between macronutrients and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were found predominantly in overweight individuals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 April 2017. <>.