Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is known to be a risk factor for liver cancer because of an excess of fat accumulation in the liver. Now new research from a team of scientists at Shinshu University School of Medicine reports that eating less can be an effective strategy to reduce the risk of developing liver cancer from fatty liver.
Previous investigations have shown that limiting food consumption can slow down the progression of cancer by in turn slowing the rate of aging. To be clear, the research doesn’t support not eating at all, rather eating less. According to the findings from the group led by Shinshu University graduate student Fangping Jia, reducing food intake by 30%, or the equivalent of eating until you are 70% full, could significantly decrease the risk of developing liver cancer from fatty liver.
Jia’s team used mice models to analyze the incidence of fatty liver-related tumors. They looked at mice that had the hepatitis C virus core gene and showed that by restriction food intake, the occurrence of liver cancer fell from 41% to 8% over 15 months.
Why does limiting food intake illicit this response? As Eureka Alert explains, dietary restriction “suppresses cell proliferation, oxidative/ER stress, inflammation, senescence, and insulin signaling while increasing autophagy. Inflammation and oxidative/ER stress create an environment in the body that is conducive to the development of abnormal cells. Autophagy is the mechanism in which the body cleans out damaged cells, reducing the likelihood of developing cancer.”
This study is the first of its kind to explicitly demonstrate the link between dietary restriction and liver cancer. Corresponding author Associate Professor Naoki Tanaka of the Shinshu University School of Medicine Associate explains that in past studies leading up to this one, they have demonstrated the mechanism of why a diet high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans-fats diet increases the incidence of liver tumors.
Paired with the findings from this study, Tanaka says he hopes to use this insight to develop personalized dietary guidance following the guideline of eating until you are 70% full in order to one day eradicate liver cirrhosis and cancer from fatty liver.