Lovers of red and processed meat are at an increased risk of developing liver disease and insulin resistance, a recent study has shown.

“Diet has a lot to do with your liver and what you eat can affect your liver. This is because the first filtering process of what we eat is in the liver and so the liver will get all the toxins and unhealthy things we eat. Red meat in this case is high in saturated fats and processed meat has lost most of its nutritional value and is loaded with preservatives which can be harmful,” Dr. Aabha Nagral, Senior Consultant Hepatologist at Apollo Hospital Navi Mumbai, said at the sidelines of the Kenya Medical Association conference in Mombasa.

The study published in the journal of hepatology examined data on 789 adults who completed questionnaires about their eating and cooking habits and also underwent liver ultrasound scans as well as lab tests for insulin resistance. Insulin resistance plays a role in the development of Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

The examination of these individuals found that people who consumed the highest amounts of red and processed meats had nearly a 50 percent increased risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and more than a 50 percent higher risk of developing insulin resistance.

Non- Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), the liver disease referred to in this study occurs when fat is deposited in the liver. Fatty liver disease can occur when more than 5 percent of the liver by weight is made up of fat. Excessive drinking can damage the liver and cause fat to accumulate, a condition known as alcoholic fatty liver, but even when people don’t drink much, they can still develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The researchers also found that cooking meat until is well done or very well done using certain methods such as frying, grilling or broiling correlates with a higher risk of insulin resistance. These cooking methods also produce compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Heterocyclic amines are a group of chemical compounds found in meats that are cooked to the “well done” stage. These compounds can lead to liver diseases.

According to Dr. Aabha Nagral, Senior Consultant Hepatologist at Apollo Hospital Navi Mumbai advises that we should eat foods when they are in their most natural state because these foods unlike processed foods are good for the liver.

While meat contributes valuable nutrients that are beneficial to health, including protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, the current study indicates that meat should be eaten in moderation and the type of meat and its preparation method should be considered carefully. White meats such as chicken and fish are recommended in addition to cooking methods such as steaming or boiling instead of frying, grilling or broiling.

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