Sydney – Increased physical activity benefits patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), independently of weight change, according to the latest research. NAFLD is the most common chronic liver disease in developed countries. It is associated with metabolic syndrome, obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes and is characterized by elevated liver enzymes.
Researchers led by Jacob George of Sydney West Area Health Service (SWAHS) examined the health outcomes of patients who were counseled on how to increase physical activity. They enrolled 141 patients with NAFLD from the SWAHS. The participants were divided into a control group, a low-intensity lifestyle intervention group, and a moderate-intensity lifestyle intervention group.
The patients in the intervention groups worked with exercise scientists who provided counseling on how to increase both planned and incidental physical activity. Walking was the main type of exercise discussed and patients were encouraged to be active for at least 150 minutes per week. After three months, participants in the intervention groups were nine times more likely to have increased their physical activity by an hour or more per week, compared to patients in the control group. Those who were active for more than 150 minutes per week, and those who increased their level of fitness, also showed improvements in liver enzymes and other metabolic indices.
The effect was independent of weight loss. Patients who remained sedentary over the course of the study had no improvement in metabolic parameters, and even leaned toward deterioration in these areas, even if they lost weight, said a SWAHS release. “The metabolic pathway by which physical activity improves insulin sensitivity may be different to that of weight loss and this is particularly relevant for patients with NAFLD,” the authors wrote.