Green tea extract may target common liver issue, but exercise is key

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a common health problem with no single standard treatment option. If allowed to progress unchecked, the condition may lead to liver damage, making it important to address whatever health issue resulted in the disease. Obesity is a major factor in the development of this condition, which may be reduced by combining exercise with commonly available green tea extracts.READ: Compound found in some vegetables may treat liver disease

The new study comes from Penn State University; it involved mice that had been fed a high-fat diet to induce obesity-related fatty liver disease.

The mice were tasked with exercising by running on a wheel and they were also fed green tea extract as part of their diet. Though mice benefited from exercise alone and green tea extract alone, combining them may be particularly beneficial.

For one thing, the researchers found that mice fed the extract and tasked with exercising showed greater gene expression related to new mitochondria formation. Penn State associate professor of food science Joshua Lambert explained:

We measured the expression of genes that we know are related to energy metabolism and play an important role in energy utilization. In the mice that had the combination treatment, we saw an increase in the expression of genes that wasn't there before they consumed green tea extract and exercised.

The team's past research on exercise and green tea extract linked this combo to improved cardiovascular health in rodents fed a high-fat diet; it also 'sharply reduced' their BMI. This time around, the researchers note that mice on a high-fat diet that were given this combination also experienced a reduction in the severity of obesity-related fatty liver disease by a huge 75-percent. Mice given either 'treatment' alone were found to have around a 50-percent reduction compared to the control mice.

With that said, the researchers caution that this study involved mice, not humans, and that additional research is necessary to determine whether similar results would be experienced by people and whether there are any side effects. Lambert explained, 'Combining the two might have health benefits for people, but we don't have the clinical data yet.'