Dairy Foods & Fatty Liver

At least 20 percent of adults in America have fatty liver disease, according to a January 2011 report from the "Harvard Health Letter." Contrary to popular belief, fatty liver disease does not just affect alcoholics. Common risk factors for fatty liver disease include diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. Low-fat dairy products are a part of a diet plan designed to help control fatty liver disease.

A selection of milk and cheeses. (Image: artisteer/iStock/Getty Images)

Lifestyle Changes for Fatty Liver

Fatty liver disease has no standard forms of treatment. Instead, doctors help people with fatty liver disease to minimize their risk factors. Common ways to control diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol include improving your diet, losing weight and increasing your physical activity level. Dairy, especially low-fat or non-fat dairy products, help you improve your diet and lose weight when incorporated into a well-balanced, calorie-controlled diet.

Dairy and Healthy Diet

Dairy products provide important nutrients that other foods lack, but full fat varieties increase your risk of weight gain and high cholesterol associated with a fatty liver. The best diet for a fatty liver focuses on nutrient dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats – including those found in nuts, fish, seeds and olive oil. Unfortunately, most of the fats found in full fat dairy products is saturated fat, or unhealthy fat. For instance, whole milk contains 7.9 grams of fat, of which 4.6 grams are saturated fat; regular vanilla ice cream contains 7.3 grams of fat, of which 4.5 grams are saturated fat; and sliced pasteurized, processed American cheese contains 6.7 grams of fat, of which 3.8 grams are saturated fat. Low-fat or fat free varieties of dairy foods help decrease your saturated fat intake, while still providing you with important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

Dairy and Weight Loss

Contrary to popular belief, dairy does not help you lose weight. A literature review published in the May 2008 issue of "Nutrition Reviews" found that clinical evidence has failed to prove that calcium or dairy products aid in weight loss. Instead of relying on dairy to lose weight, find ways to cut enough calories from your daily diet or increase your physical activity level to burn extra calories. The safest weight loss programs allow you to lose weight at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds each week through a combination of exercise and diet. Do not use crash diets or lose weight too quickly or you risk increasing the severity of your fatty liver disease.

Dairy Substitutions to Decrease Fat and Calories

Including dairy as part of your well-balanced diet that helps reduce cholesterol levels and allows for weight loss requires you to change the way you use dairy products. Make the switch from whole milk to a lower fat or fat free variety gradually. Start by replacing 2 ounces of your 8-ounce cup of whole milk with reduced-fat milk, and gradually increase the amount of reduced-fat milk you have in your glass until you fill your cup with reduced-fat milk. Use fat-free or reduced-fat milk in your coffee. Replace sour cream in your recipes with fat-free or reduced fat yogurt. Finally, any time you select a dairy produce, look for reduced fat or fat free varieties.

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