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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014 Apr;22(4):989-95. doi: 10.1002/oby.20623. Epub 2013 Dec 4.

Effects of dietary interventions on liver volume in humans.

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Minerva Foundation Institute for Medical Research, Helsinki, Finland; Department of Endocrinology Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.



To compare effects of similar weight loss induced either by a short-term low-carbohydrate or by a long-term hypocaloric diet, and to determine effects of high carbohydrate overfeeding on liver total, lean, and fat volumes.


Liver total, lean, and fat volumes were measured before and after (i) a 6-day low-carbohydrate diet (n = 17), (ii) a 7-month standard hypocaloric diet (n = 26), and (iii) a 3-week high-carbohydrate diet (n = 17), by combining magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1) H-MRS) techniques.


At baseline, three groups were comparable with respect to age, body mass index, liver volumes and the liver fat content. Body weight decreased similarly by the short-term and long-term hypocaloric diets. Liver total volume decreased significantly more during the short-term low-carbohydrate (-22 ± 2%) than the long-term (-7 ± 2%) hypocaloric diet (P < 0.001). This was due to a greater decrease in liver lean volume in the short-term (-20 ± 2%) than the long-term (-4 ± 2%) weight loss group (P < 0.001). Decreases in liver fat were comparable. Liver volume increased by 9 ± 3% due to overfeeding (P< 0.02 for before vs. after).


These data support the use of a short-term low-carbohydrate diet whenever a reduction in liver volume is desirable. Overeating carbohydrate is harmful because it increases liver volume.

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