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Intermittent fasting linked to reduced risk of liver disease

Researchers say the diet plan can change proteins in the liver to keep consumers healthy

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Photo (c) StephanieFrey - Getty Images
Intermittent fasting has recently gained traction for its ability to help consumers lose weight and achieve a healthier lifestyle, but a new study shows that it can also promote good liver health. 

Australian researchers at the University of Sydney say that the diet can positively impact fat metabolism in the liver, which can help prevent various liver diseases and conditions. Specifically, they found that a certain protein called HNF4-(alpha) was suppressed when an intermittent fasting plan was followed.

"For the first time we showed that HNF4-(alpha) is inhibited during intermittent fasting. This has downstream consequences, such as lowering the abundance of blood proteins in inflammation or affecting bile synthesis. This helps explain some of the previously known facts about intermittent fasting," said researcher Dr. Mark Larance.

Changing liver proteins

The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing how the HNF4-(alpha) protein was affected by intermittent fasting in mice. The protein is generally responsible for regulating a wide array of liver genes.

The team found that both intermittent fasting and every-other-day-fasting (in which consumers only consume food on an alternating daily schedule) changed how HNF4-(alpha) interacted with the metabolism of fatty acids in the liver. The observations of this interaction and others could allow for medical professionals to develop approaches that could help manage glucose and regulate diseases like diabetes.

"We know that fasting can be an effective intervention to treat disease and improve liver health. But we haven't known how fasting reprograms liver proteins, which perform a diverse array of essential metabolic functions," explained Larance. "By studying the impact on proteins in the livers of mice...we now have a much better understanding of how this happens."

The full study has been published in the journal Cell Reports.

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