Fighting Fatty Liver With Exercise

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As Eric Lagergren has highlighted in his last few blog entries ("A Week in the Life," "The Paranoid Moments," and "When the Paranoia Subsides"), having diabetes can raise your risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which fat accumulates in the liver, possibly leading to liver damage and other complications. Now a new study has shown that, in addition to all of its other benefits, exercising regularly can help people with diabetes significantly reduce the amount of fat in and around their livers.

In the study, 77 adults with Type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned either to a supervised exercise program or no exercise for six months. The supervised exercise group walked briskly, ran on a treadmill, or rode a bicycle for 45 minutes three times a week and lifted weights for 20 minutes three times a week. The control group was asked to avoid formal fitness programs or gym classes for the duration of the study.

All study participants had images taken of their livers at the beginning and the end of the study. At the end, the exercise group had 40% less liver fat than the no exercise group, whose liver fat levels remained the same from the beginning of the study. (The exercise group also saw improvements in physical fitness and body fat levels compared to the control group.)

Lead researcher and exercise physiologist Kerry Stewart, Ed.D., concluded that in people with diabetes, exercise is not only useful for weight loss, physical fitness, and overall health, but has now been found to be specifically useful for “trimming the fatty liver that complicates their illness and which could accelerate heart disease and liver failure.”

These study results were reported last month at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation.

For more information on how to get started with exercise, check out our Exercise articles.

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