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Fatty acid composition but not quantity is an important indicator of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a systematic review.

BACKGROUND: There is still paucity on the effects of dietary and supplemental fatty acid on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The aim of this review is to systematically review and summarise the effect of fatty acids intake on liver-related outcomes in adult patients with NAFLD.

METHODS: The review was conducted using Cochrane CENTRAL Library, Scopus, Embase, MEDLINE, PubMed, and Web of Science. A total of 2786 records were identified, and of these, 36 studies (31 were randomised control trials (RCTs), and 5 were case-control studies) were included. Quality assessment was conducted using the Revised Cochrane Risk of Bias tool and Joanna Briggs Institute checklists.

RESULTS: Of 36 articles, 79% of RCTs and 66% of case-control studies had a low risk of bias. Potential heterogeneity has been observed in assessment of liver-related outcomes. According to the RCTs, there was moderate evidence (3/6 studies) that a diet characterised by a high MUFA, PUFA and low SFA showed reduced liver fat and stiffness. The using of culinary fats that are high in MUFA (4/6 studies) reduces liver steatosis. n-3 PUFA supplementation in combination with a hypocaloric or heart healthy diet with a low SFA improved liver enzyme level (5/14 studies) and steatosis score (3/14 studies).

CONCLUSIONS: Effects on NAFLD parameters, including liver fat content (assessed via magnetic resonance imaging/spectroscopy), stiffness and steatosis score (assessed by ultrasonography), were primarily related to fatty acid composition independent of energy intake. Further investigation is needed to determine the mechanism of specific fatty acid on the accumulation of liver fat.

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