Eat Less Sugar
Having too much added sugar, especially fructose, has been linked not only to weight gain, but to a buildup of liver fat, in turn boosting the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease — even in teens.
Fructose is a natural part of fruit. But it’s also added to many foods and drinks, sometimes as high-fructose corn syrup.
Obese teens who restricted how much fructose they ate, without reducing total calories, were able to lessen the buildup of fat in their liver, says Jean-Marc Schwarz, PhD, a professor of biochemistry at Touro University California.
Schwarz’s team studied 40 obese Latino and African-American children, ages 9 to 18, who had regularly eaten high-sugar foods. For 10 days, the children ate only the meals provided, which substituted other, healthier carbs for sugars.
Next, the researchers measured the conversion of sugar to fat in their livers. After 10 days of restricting fructose, the change-over of sugar to fat declined by more than 40%, and liver fat declined by more than 20%, Schwarz says.
The results suggest the liver fat buildup ”can be reversed just by taking away the fructose from the diet,” he says.
Guidelines from the World Health Organization recommend you limit ”free” sugars, such as glucose and fructose, to less than 10% of your daily calories. Under 5% is even better. That translates to about 6 teaspoons of sugar a day. (A can of sugar-sweetened soda has about 10 teaspoons, by the way.)
The guidelines don’t refer to sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and milk. They’re talking about sugar that’s added to foods, such as cookies and pies, and those found in fruit juice concentrates and honey.
Still, studies have shown that cutting back on all types of sugar has health benefits.