garlic improves non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

It is strange that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is not much talked about because it is the most common cause of chronic liver disease. It is also strange that this very much talked about herb has never been talked about for NAFLD. Now it has!

NAFLD may affect as many as 25-30% of all people in the world. Unbeknownst to most of them, fats, including cholesterol and triglycerides, are building up in their liver tissue. Being insulin resistant and being overweight play key roles in the progression of NAFLD.

A new double-blind study looks at whether garlic can help NAFLD. It is the first study to do that. The study included 88 people with NAFLD. All of them were on “usual treatment.” Intriguingly, usual treatment in this Iranian study was the great liver herb, milk thistle. Milk thistle is certainly not usual treatment in North America. Though perhaps it should be, considering that the active component of milk thistle, silymarin, has been shown to be effective for NAFLD and, importantly, to lower liver enzymes better than drugs (Hepat Mon 2012;12(8):e6099). A meta-analysis of 8 controlled studies confirmed silymarin’s ability to significantly reduce levels of the liver enzymes AST and ALT (Medicine 2017;96(49):e9061).

Half the people in the study were given a placebo to add to their milk thistle; the other half were given 400mg of garlic powder, containing 1.5mg of allicin, four times a day.

At the end of the 12 week study, waist circumference went down significantly in the garlic group compared to the placebo group. Remember, this will not just make you happy because you lost weight: being overweight plays a key role in NAFLD, so this result is important.

Importantly, according to abdominal ultrasounds, steatosis, or fat accumulation in the liver, was significantly reduced in the garlic group compared to the placebo group. Liver enzymes, including ALT, AST and GGT also decreased significantly in the garlic group versus the placebo group. Cholesterol and triglycerides were also significantly improved in the garlic group.

That means garlic did it all: improvement in weight loss, cholesterol and triglycerides, liver enzymes and stenosis.

The researchers conclude that garlic improves NAFLD and recommend its use along with improved diet. The garlic may be quite powerful because it was able to exert benefits beyond milk thistle alone. As in this study, though, it wouldn’t hurt to throw the milk thistle in as well.

Br J Nutr. 2020 Aug 28;124(4):450-456

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