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This Eating Habit Could Be Putting You in Danger of Liver Diseases, Says New Research

That side of bacon could be doing more harm than you think.

When it comes to looking after your health, it's important to consider how you're treating your liver. A healthy liver can help you metabolize your food and protect you from dangerous chemicals, among a range of other vital functions, while an unhealthy liver can lead to a whole host of issues, ranging from the uncomfortable to the seriously dangerous.

When it comes to helping or hurting this vital organ, your eating habits can have a huge impact. Now, new research suggests eating foods that increase your inflammation may leave you at risk of dangerous liver diseases.

In the study, which was published in The Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers looked at more than 4,100 U.S. adults between the ages of 20 and 80, comparing their Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII)a measure of how someone's diet will affect their levels of inflammationto measures of their liver health. The highest-scoring foods, or the ones that could cause the most inflammation, include items high in saturated fats and cholesterol. The lowest-scoring foods include items high in fiber and many of the nutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables.

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Specifically, researchers were interested in what association, if any, the DII had with participants' risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases defines as any of multiple conditions that involve a buildup of fat in one's liver. Sure enough, the study found that inflammation-promoting properties in participants' diets were linked with poorer liver health.

"NAFLD is an increasing health problem worldwide, estimated to affect around 30% of the population and projected to continue to increase over the next few years," Sunil Pai, MD, author of An Inflammation Nation, told Eat This, Not That! in an interview. "As the liver becomes more fibrotic (due to inflammation that causes stiffness and scarring), it also causes interference with appropriate metabolism of medications, dietary supplements, and foods."

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Pai added that this effect could leave individuals feeling fatigued, weakened, and in pain, among other symptoms. Plus, studies have linked chronic inflammation to symptoms as unpleasant and wide-ranging as constipation, memory loss, and shortness of breath.

"Inflammation is the triggering mechanism that makes almost all diseases worse. Therefore, the key to improving and maintaining your health is to lower inflammation overall," Pai said. "I highly recommend everyone to eat an anti- inflammatory plant based diet to improve their overall health conditions."

To get started, try learning about How to Lower Inflammation Starting Right Now, According to Nutritionists, and don't forget to check out The Best Eating Habits to Fight Inflammation, Say Dietitians.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more about Clara