American researchers have discovered that those who have a soy protein-rich diet reduce the amount of ‘fatty deposits’ that accumulate around the liver, which can lead to liver disease.
Scientists from the University of Illunois found that soy protein, derived from non-animal sources such as tofu and natural yoghurt, significantly slashes the amount of fat and triglycerides (a type of fat found in the bloodstream and tissue) in the liver.
High levels of both of these can trigger liver disease as they force the organ to store fat instead of metabolising it, meaning the liver cannot do its job properly.
Hong Chen, the study’s lead author, explains: "When fat accumulates in an organ that's not supposed to store fat — like the liver, that organ's vital function can be dangerously compromised.”
The study came to its conclusion after testing on lean and obese lab rats, who were either given a diet of casein-based (milk) proteins or soy proteins for 17-weeks.
Although the soy proteins had no effect on the normal-sized rats, in their obese counterparts, the soy diet showed a 20% decrease in triglycerides and overall fat accumulation in the liver.
The study’s findings benefit obese people most significantly as soy proteins restore a crucial player in fat metabolism. "In many obese persons, there's a sort of metabolic traffic problem, and when more fat can make its way out of the liver, there is less pressure on that organ," adds Chen.
Soy is a subtropical plant, native to southeastern Asia. Soy contains protein, isoflavones, and fiber, all thought to provide health benefits. Soy is an excellent source of dietary protein, including all essential amino acids.
Common sources of soy isoflavones include roasted soybean, green soybean, soy flour, tofu, tofu yogurt, soy hot dogs, miso, soy butter, soy nut butter, soy ice cream, soy milk, soy yogurt, tofu pups®, soy cheese, bean curd and soy noodles.
In a separate study by Boston Children's Hospital, a diet rich in potatoes, white bread and white rice may be contributing to a 'silent epidemic' of fatty liver disease.
High-glycaemic foods (GI foods) - rapidly digested by the body - could be causing fatty liver disease, increasing the risk of serious illness.
Keep your liver healthy with these low GI foods - plus discover essential liver-friendly food swaps you should be making...
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