for Veterans and the Public
How diet affects the liver
A bad diet sometimes can lead to liver problems. If your diet provides too many calories, you will gain weight. Being overweight is linked to the buildup of fat in the liver, called "fatty liver." Over many years, having a fatty liver when you already have hepatitis C will make it more likely to develop cirrhosis. Being overweight and having a fatty liver also have been shown to make it less likely that hepatitis C will successfully be cleared with interferon and ribavirin.
One's diet also can contain toxins that are harmful to the liver. Some toxins act quickly. Eating certain poisonous mushrooms, for example, can cause liver failure and death within days. Other toxins, such as alcohol, damage the liver over time.
A good diet, by contrast, can actually improve liver health in a person with hepatitis C. A balanced diet can lead to better liver functioning and lowered risk of cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver. It also can help the immune system stay strong and fight off illness.
Finally, people infected with hepatitis C have higher rates of diabetes than those who are not infected, but a good diet can help reduce body fat and control blood sugar. This lowers diabetes risk.
Even though following a generally healthy diet and keeping a normal body weight (measured as Body Mass Index, or BMI) may not seem like a specific treatment for hepatitis C, it is a great way of protecting your liver against hepatitis C. With a normal BMI and good diet and exercise, you are helping reduce inflammation in the liver and slow down the progression to cirrhosis from hepatitis C than if you are overweight, have diabetes, have high cholesterol and have fatty liver.