Omega-3 supplements do not contribute to a fatty liver--in fact, fish oil can be used to help reverse fatty liver disease. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is most often associated with obesity, overeating and a diet high in sugar as well as elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels. When layers of fat accumulate in your liver, you run the risk of liver scarring--cirrhosis--which can compromise liver function.
Your largest internal organ is your liver; it's responsible for storing glucose, vitamins and minerals, producing bile to digest fats, killing germs that could enter your body via your intestines and breaking down alcohol and medications. Your liver works with your kidneys to filter toxins from your body--it's an organ of elimination. You may have no symptoms when fat builds up in your liver--and for most people a fatty liver causes no damage. Sometimes, the excess fat can cause an inflammation. This inflammation can do damage and impair liver function.
Eating fatty foods doesn't cause a fatty liver--although it may cause some of the health issues linked to fatty liver disease. Fat accumulates in the liver when something goes wrong in the breakdown of fat. When your liver can't metabolize fat properly, that fat stays in your liver. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, up to 20 percent of Americans may have a fatty liver, which "probably causes little harm or permanent damage." For some, fatty liver will progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis--a liver condition that can cause permanent damage.
Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat found in oily, fatty, cold-water fish and a few plant-based foods--notably, walnuts and flaxseed--or they can be taken as supplements. A 2009 study published in "The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology" found that omega-3 fatty acids contain two substances, resolvins and protectins, which can reduce the inflammation in fatty liver and may also help treat insulin resistance.
In addition to omega-3 supplements and a diet rich in omega-3 foods, you can treat fatty liver disease by treating the associated risk factors--obesity, insulin resistance and elevated lipid levels. Losing weight through a combination of a healthy diet low in saturated fats and regular exercise will help. Eat high-fiber plant-based foods that work to lower cholesterol levels and regulate glucose levels. Avoid unnecessary medications which can burden your liver. Make lifestyle modifications rather than taking drugs when possible.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis; November 2006
- MayoClinic.com; Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Lifestyle and home remedies; February 2011
- Jackson/Siegelbaum Gastroenterology; Fatty Liver; Frank Jackson M.D.; 2008
- "The FASEB Journal"; Obesity-Induced Insulin Resistance and Hepatic Steatosis are Alleviated by ω-3 Fatty Acids: a Role for Resolvins and Protectins; González-Périz, A, et. al; January 2009
- MedlinePlus: Fish oil