Diet and liver diseases

In collaboration with Andréanne Martin, Canadian Dietician

According to the Canadian Liver Society, one out of four Canadians will have an illness associated with this organ. “Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease” (NASH) is currently the most prevalent and affects nearly 7 million people.

According to the latest statistics, liver cancer is on the rise and the deadliest in Canada. This news is certainly alarming, but it is fortunately a portrait that could be rectified by changing certain lifestyle habits, including diet.




Whether it is hepatitis, cirrhosis, steatosis or liver cancer, several nutritional recommendations can be applied to prevent them. Limit the accumulation of fat in the abdomen and opt for an anti-inflammatory diet rich in antioxidants becomes fundamental.

In fact, the accumulation of abdominal fat is increasingly associated with an excessively high consumption of carbohydrates, mainly the fast-absorbing sugars found in:

– Sweets,

– Refined cereal products (white bread, rice, pasta made from enriched and not whole flour, crackers without fibers, etc.),

– Fizzy drinks,

– Yogurt with added sugar,

– Fruit juice and desserts.

To find your bearings, it becomes important to become familiar with reading nutrition labels and the list of ingredients in a product. This allows for quick identification of foods and beverages that contain added sugars and cooking meals that follow the health plate model in which vegetables occupy half of space, protein, just over a quarter and vegetables. Whole grain products sit in the last quarter.

This format makes it possible to reduce total carbohydrate intake while ensuring optimal intake of fiber and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients.

In order to limit inflammation in the human body, scientific evidence demonstrates the positive effects created by the decrease in saturated and “trans” fats and the increase of good fats and vegetables. Specifically, it is suggested to limit meats, frying, fatty dairy products and pastries containing hydrogenated fats and to increase the consumption of vegetable foods.

The fibers and nutrients found in fruits and vegetables help to limit inflammatory processes, among others, through their role as energetic substrate for good intestinal bacteria. The latter limit inflammatory processes when they are present in large quantities in our intestine, and they are adequately nourished through the fibers and antioxidants contained in colored plants.

Anti-inflammatory properties are also recognized in omega-3, a fat found in some nuts and seeds, mainly walnuts, chia seeds and camellia. Oily fish are a very good source. A daily intake of omega-3 is an appreciable amount of vegetables in meals and two servings of fruit a day can get a range of interesting anti-inflammatory nutrients, to act for the prevention of various problems health including those of the liver.



When hepatic disease is already present, it is important to see a doctor and dietitian before starting natural herbal treatments, as some of them may be toxic to the liver.

Regardless of the liver issue you’re facing, alcohol abstinence is required.


Hepatitis is an inflammatory disease caused by viruses or toxic chemicals, such as alcohol or drugs. Generally, inflammatory lesions are reversible. However, if hepatitis becomes chronic, lesions become irreversible.

The suggested diet resembles Mediterranean diet, a balanced one as presented in the “prevention” section. More specifically, protein intakes should be monitored and should represent approximately 1g / kg of body weight of the person. For example, for an individual who weighs 68kg, his protein intake should be between 65-70g per day, representing 20g per meal and 3-5g per snack.

Steatosis and cirrhosis

Hepatic steatosis is characterized by an accumulation of fat in the liver that progresses to cirrhosis and cancer afterwards if not managed. It can be caused by alcohol, but currently, Western lifestyle is the cause. As a reminder, a high waist circumference, a diet rich in simple sugars and saturated fat and a lack of physical activity are among the main risk factors.

There is no specific drug for the treatment of fatty liver. Modification of lifestyle is the main treatment.

The objectives are therefore to reduce waist circumference by limiting the intake of simple sugars in favor of proteins whose intake amounts to 1.0-1.5 g / kg of body weight.

Dietitians and Nutritionists work with their clients to find simple ways to increase daily consumption of high-fiber foods.

Substituting refined grain products for whole grains is a first step. Adding fruits and vegetables to the intake you currently consume, and integrating vegetarianism more as a dietary option when cooking legumes, are also part of winning strategies.

Among other actions, it is important to focus on colored plants in order to increase the consumption of antioxidants and give priority to mono and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola and camellia.

As mentioned above, a simple way of identifying fats from diet (“trans” and saturated fats) is by carefully reading the list of ingredients in the products consumed. It should be noted that these fats can hide under the mention “hydrogenated fats” or “shortening”. On the other hand, any fried product on which we can read “without trans fat” is not automatically. Although there is no fat “trans” added, at the time of frying, fat Saturated used are transformed into “trans” fat and the harmful effect is present.

Added to these nutritional recommendations, it is also important to increase daily physical activity for at least 30 minutes if it is not the case.

Liver cancer

Liver cancer can develop either because of chronic liver disease (hepatitis B or C, hepatic steatosis) or by the migration of cancer cells from another organ (often the intestine).

The implementation of the previously mentioned recommendations is strongly advised and according to the seriousness of the situation, it will be necessary to adapt your choices according to medical treatments in force. Here, nutritional recommendations must be personalized and validated with the nutritionist who accompanies you.


Nutrition has always been at the heart of overall health. It is important to set realistic challenges, with the ultimate goal of being able to make the most of what health makes possible.


Sources : 

Order of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Quebec, Clinical Nutrition Manual, accessed online, August 29, 2018.

Freidoony L, DeokKong I. Practical approaches to the nutritional management of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Integrative Medicine Research. Volume 3, Issue 4, December 2014, Pages 192-197

McCarthy E.M., M.E. Rinella M.E. The role of diet and nutrient composition in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. J Acad Nutr Diet.Volume 112, Issue 3, March 2012, Pages 401-409

Canadian Liver Society, Page consulted on August 29, 2018.