According to new research, a compound found in many popular and widespread vegetables fights fatty liver diseases. Texas A&M AgriLife Research’s recent study found that the natural compound called indole can help alleviate such diseases. The test results were presented in the English-language journal “Hepatology”.
Indole in the fight against non-alcoholic fatty liver
Indole occurs naturally in intestinal bacteria and cruciferous vegetables, including cauliflower, green and Brussels sprouts. According to the new study, the compound is capable of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFDL), but the focus of the study was also whether it is also suitable for the prevention of the disease. The result was positive here too.
Based on research, it is believed that healthy foods that increase indole production effectively protect against NAFDL and improve the health of those affected. These findings make it clear once again that nutrition can make a significant contribution to physical well-being.
NAFDL can be influenced positively and negatively
NAFDL means that there is increased fat infiltration in the liver. It affects people who consume little or no alcohol and can be caused, for example, by an unhealthy diet with a large amount of saturated fatty acids.
If this liver condition is not treated early, life-threatening diseases such as liver cancer or liver cirrhosis can be at risk. However, various other factors play a role in the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver, for example the disease occurs seven to ten times more often in people with obesity. In addition, obesity leads to inflammation in the body, which is caused by macrophages. Macrophages are white blood cells that usually fight infections. Such inflammations increase liver damage in people with liver diseases.
Intestinal bacteria can also have a positive or negative impact on the progress of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, because they produce various compounds, including indole. It is a product of the amino acid tryptophan, which, according to the new research work, has a preventive and curative effect for people with NAFDL or increased risk of fatty liver.
The new study investigated the effect of indole concentrations on humans, animals and individual cells to check the effect of indole on liver inflammation. The scientists set out to find out what potential indole has for people with NAFDL and how it can alleviate the disease. Older results from research on intestinal bacteria and intestinal and liver inflammation were also included in the study.
Based on the 137 subjects, the researchers found that patients with a higher body mass index (BMI) tended to have lower indole levels in the blood. In addition, the indole concentration in clinically obese people was greatly reduced. People with low indole levels also tended to have a large amount of fat accumulation in the liver.
Research hasn’t ended yet
In order to further understand the effects of indole, the scientists used animal models and administered them high-fat food. In this way, they mimicked the effects of NAFDL. A control group, however, was fed a low-fat diet. The comparison showed how important indole really is for NAFDL: in the animals with fatty liver, fat accumulation and liver inflammation could be reduced by indole. In addition, indole affected the cells in the intestine, which spread molecular signals that reduce inflammation. This connection between liver and intestine makes research on non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases even more complex. Further studies are now necessary to better understand the importance of indole.
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According to the scientists, foods rich in the compound indole and medications that simulate their effects have the potential to open up new treatment methods for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, it should be borne in mind that prevention is particularly important.
The avoidance of the emergence and further development of NAFDL can largely be controlled by nutrition. As a result, further research is needed to clarify which foods can change the gut microbiome, how exactly, and can increase indole production.