A new study from the University of Eastern Finland found that regular high intensity exercise significantly decreased the fasting glucose levels and waist circumference of participants with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It also improved their oxygen consumption rate and workload capacity, according to a news release from the university.
The researchers also discovered that exercise altered amino acid metabolism in fatty tissue, making it more effective.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver disease, affecting approximately 25% of the world’s population. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NAFLD is a condition in which excess fat builds up in your liver. This buildup of fat is not caused by heavy alcohol use.
The condition is usually asymptomatic but can lead to liver inflammation and liver cirrhosis, according to the news release. NAFLD is also associated with obesity and other characteristics of metabolic syndrome such as type 2 diabetes and abnormal blood concentrations.
While the accumulation of fat in the liver can be reduced by weight loss and a healthy diet, the new research found that exercise could be an effective treatment for NAFLD. The 46 study participants with NAFLD were divided into two groups. One group performed HIIT exercise which is defined as high intensity interval training along with an independent training session weekly for 12 weeks. The control group did not increase any exercise during the study. Neither group changed their dietary habits.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that exercise had a beneficial effect on fasting glucose concentrations, waist circumference, maximum oxygen consumption rate and maximum achieved workload. Exercise also increased the levels of amino acids which are protein building blocks. The higher levels of amino acids, especially those found in adipose or fatty tissues, may be responsible for the improvements in blood and glucose metabolism, said the researchers.
The study published in Scientific Reports adds to the growing evidence that vigorous physical exercise improves the outcome for people with NAFLD. Physical activity directly decreases pro-inflammatory and oxidative stress markers and improves liver enzymes. Experts recommend both aerobic and resistance training to remove extra fat from your liver and reduce NAFLD-associated cardiovascular risk. While the exercise program should be tailored to suit the individual’s fitness level and stage of liver disease, HIIT training has been shown to be an effective and efficient way to treat NAFLD. The general recommendations for exercise for most Americans is 150 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity aerobic exercise accompanied by strength and endurance training at least two to three times weekly.
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