Men's Health : Omega-3 Fats Help Liver Health in Men

By Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, August 19, 2010, abstracted from “Intake of n -3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and non-alc oholic fatty liver disease: a cross-sectional study in Japanese men and women” in the August 4, 2010 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), also known as alcohol steatohepatitis affects 2 to 5% of Americans, while another 20% are at risk. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease resembles alcoholic liver disease (fat in the liver, along with inflammation and liver damage) but occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol. It is regarded as a “silent” liver disease in that most people feel well and are not aware that they have a liver problem. But nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, if not treated, can be severe and lead to cirrhosis, in which the liver is permanently damaged and scarred and is no longer able to work properly (1).

One of the risk factors for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is obesity. And with the doubling of the rate of obesity in the US, ways to help treat nonalcoholic fatty liver will be of primary importance in the coming years (1). Now a new study in Japan (2) has found that omega-3 fats may help with liver health.’

In the study, 296 men and 496 women participating in a general health check-up program provided dietary information from the previous month using a self-administered diet history questionnaire. The questionnaire concerned general dietary behaviors, major cooking methods, the quantity and frequency of the consumption of five alcoholic beverages (sake, beer, syocyu (made from sweet potato, rice and barley), whiskey and wine), the quantity and frequency of consuming 58 selected food and non-alcoholic beverage items, use of dietary supplements, and the amount of rice and miso soup consumed daily (3). The patients then had an ultrasound done of the liver to check for the presence of NAFLD.

The researchers found that men in the highest 33% of omega-3 fat intake (1.7 grams per day) had a 49% reduced risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Those in the middle 33% (1.23 g/day) had a 34% reduced risk compared to those in the lowest 33% intake (0.96 g/day). While DHA results did not reach statistical significance, those in the highest 33% of combined EPA+DHA intake (0.57 g/day) had a 52% reduced risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease compared to those in the lowest 33% of intake (0.20 g/day). However, no significant risk reductions were found in women.

When suggesting how EPA and DHA elicit liver-healthy properties, the researchers pointed to research showing EPA and DHA to affect a receptor on liver cells that facilitate fat removal (called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha as well as decreasing fat formation in the liver by decreasing the activity of a protein called SREBP-1 (4). They went on to conclude that “Dietary EPA and EPA plus DHA may be independent and preventive nutrients for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in Japanese men.”

Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Danville, CA. You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at or visiting his web site at

1. “Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis” -
2. Oya J. Intake of n -3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and non-alc oholic fatty liver disease: a cross-sectional study in Japanese men and women. Eur J Clin Nutr 2010; 1-7
3. Yanagibori R. Self-administered diet history questionnaire developed for health education: a relative validation of the test-version by comparison with 3-day diet record in women. J Epidemiol 1998;8:203–215
4. Yoshikawa T. Polyunsaturat ed fat ty acids s upp ress sterol r egulat ory element-binding protein 1c promoter activit y b y i nhibition of liver X receptor ( LXR) binding to LXR response elem ents. J B iol Chem 2002; 277 , 1705–1711