Short-Term Removal of Sugar Reduces Sugar-to-Fat Conversion in Liver


In just 9 days of limited fructose consumption, both liver fat concentration and de novo lipogensis decreased.

Jean-Marc Shwarz, De novo lipogensis, diabetes, sugar

Removing sugar for just 9 days can consistently reduce the liver’s conversion of sugar to fat, known as de novo lipogenesis (DNL), and decreased liver fat, according to study results.

The small study, led by Jean-Marc Schwarz (pictured), PhD, of Touro University California, examined the link between obesity, fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes and sugar consumption, by looking into DNL.

“Clearly what we observed is that when you move away from fructose and add sugar you have less of conversion of sugar to fat, which comes along with a decrease in liver fat,” Schwarz told MD Magazine. “When you have that decrease, even a small amount of liver fat, that’s enough already to really improve the chances of preventing pre-diabetes and the development of diabetes. A large proportion of the participants went from pre-diabetic to a normalized blood glucose level.”

In the adult phase of the study, 4 adult men were given a low-fructose diet (<4% of kilocalories) for 9 consecutive days, while 4 others consumed a high-fructose diet (25% of kilocalories). After completing each 9-day diet, the study arms swapped diets. Fractional hepatic DNL was measured during the feeding periods, and liver fat concentration was measured on day 8 of each diet.

After they consumed the high-fructose diet, the mean (standard deviation) DNL was significantly higher for the low-fructose group (18.6% [1.4%] vs. 11.0% [1.4%]; P = 0.001), and the liver fat concentration was higher during the high-fructose feedings as well (median, 137% of values obtained during the low-fructose diet; P = 0.013).

Regardless of the order in which the diets were consumed the differences were noted.

The study also saw that hepatic glucose production, often suppressed by higher insulin levels, was not affected by the high-fructose diet, which “may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes,” the authors noted.

Similar results were seen from the child phase of the study, which restricted sugar intake for 9 days for obese Latino and African American children with elevated triglycerides, insulin resistance, and/or hypertension.

The children saw a 56% decrease in DNL (n=40) and a 22% overall liver fat concentration decrease.

“In 9 days of limited fructose intake, we saw decreased liver fat and glucose levels, and lipid metabolism,” Schwarz said. “The liver is like a crossroad between cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Not every diabetic has defects of the liver, but a good proportion have an initial problem in the liver, and that crossroad, if you can fix it, you can potentially decrease cardiovascular disease and your chance of diabetes.”

Schwarz noted that the findings are a “good piece of evidence that it’s effective to move away from sugary drinks like soda, and any added sugar in your diet.” He stated that, although this study was small and short-term, there is a strong indication that reducing the intake of sugar in the diet can result in quick improvements."

The study, “Conversion of Sugar to Fat: Is Hepatic de Novo Lipogenesis Leading to Metabolic Syndrome and Associated Chronic Diseases?” was published online in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

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