There’s a silent epidemic in folks with type 2 diabetes: 50 to 70% have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is an important contributor to cirrhosis, i.e., scarring in the liver that impairs liver function. In the study at hand, a ketogenic diet reduced liver fat by 31% over just six days. I don’t have many details of the diet used, but it reduced carbohydrates to 20 grams/day.
Ketogenic diet is an effective treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Here, we present evidence that hepatic mitochondrial fluxes and redox state are markedly altered during ketogenic diet-induced reversal of NAFLD in humans. Ketogenic diet for 6 [days] markedly decreased liver fat content and hepatic insulin resistance. These changes were associated with increased net hydrolysis of liver triglycerides and decreased endogenous glucose production and serum insulin concentrations. Partitioning of fatty acids toward ketogenesis increased, which was associated with increased hepatic mitochondrial redox state and decreased hepatic citrate synthase flux. These data demonstrate heretofore undescribed adaptations underlying the reversal of NAFLD by ketogenic diet and highlight hepatic mitochondrial fluxes and redox state as potential treatment targets in NAFLD.
Weight loss by ketogenic diet (KD) has gained popularity in management of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). KD rapidly reverses NAFLD and insulin resistance despite increasing circulating nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA), the main substrate for synthesis of intrahepatic triglycerides (IHTG). To explore the underlying mechanism, we quantified hepatic mitochondrial fluxes and their regulators in humans by using positional isotopomer NMR tracer analysis. Ten overweight/obese subjects received stable isotope infusions of: [D7]glucose, [13C4]β-hydroxybutyrate and [3-13C]lactate before and after a 6-d KD. IHTG was determined by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS). The KD diet decreased IHTG by 31% in the face of a 3% decrease in body weight and decreased hepatic insulin resistance (−58%) despite an increase in NEFA concentrations (+35%). These changes were attributed to increased net hydrolysis of IHTG and partitioning of the resulting fatty acids toward ketogenesis (+232%) due to reductions in serum insulin concentrations (−53%) and hepatic citrate synthase flux (−38%), respectively. The former was attributed to decreased hepatic insulin resistance and the latter to increased hepatic mitochondrial redox state (+167%) and decreased plasma leptin (−45%) and triiodothyronine (−21%) concentrations. These data demonstrate heretofore undescribed adaptations underlying the reversal of NAFLD by KD: That is, markedly altered hepatic mitochondrial fluxes and redox state to promote ketogenesis rather than synthesis of IHTG.
Steve Parker, M.D.