Fish oil is considered healthy due to its numerous health benefits. However new research suggests that consuming fish oil for long or sunflower oil may increase the risk of fatty liver disease later in life.
The researchers discovered lifelong consumption of sunflower oil or fish oil led to changes in the liver that make the organ susceptible to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is a more serious form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Study co-author José Luis Quiles, a professor of physiology working at the University of Granada in Spain, and colleagues recently reported their discoveries in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
NASH is characterized by an accumulation of fat in the liver which is not caused by alcohol consumption, inflammation, and liver cell damage. The liver damage that occurs in NASH can increase the risk of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
How dietary fats affect the liver
The researchers suggested that the type of oils we consume could play a role in our later-life risk of the condition based on the link between diet and NASH.
The researchers came to their conclusions by examining the effects of different dietary fats, including sunflower oil, fish oil, and virgin olive oil, on rat livers.
The team observed at how lifelong consumption of each of these oils impacted the structure of the rodents’ livers. Also, the team looked at how the liver evolves with age as a result of the different dietary fats consumed.
Olive oil best for a healthy liver
Apart from the fact that the researchers discovered that liver fat accumulates with age, they also found out that the type of fat that accumulates on the liver is influenced by the type of fats that we eat.
As Prof. Quiles said; “Regardless of this accumulation, some livers age in a healthier way than others and with a greater or lesser predisposition to certain diseases.”
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The study revealed that fish oil and sunflower oil negatively impacted the liver health of the rats. Lasting sunflower oil intake was discovered to trigger liver fibrosis, and it also altered the structure of the organ, which led to changes in gene expression, and increased oxidation in liver cells.
The scientists reported that rats that had a lifelong intake of fish oil showed an increase in age-related cell oxidation in their livers. Also, they experienced a decrease in electron transport chain activity in the mitochondria — the “powerhouses” of the cell which damages cell function.
Fish oil also led to an increase in relative telomere length in the liver. Olive oil, however, was found to cause the least damage to the liver.
The researchers says these findings indicate that virgin olive oil might be the best dietary fat for liver health.