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Efficacy of dietary and physical activity intervention in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a systematic review
  1. Susan Kenneally1,
  2. Joanna H Sier2,
  3. J Bernadette Moore1,2
  1. 1Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
  2. 2School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr J Bernadette Moore; j.b.moore{at}


Background Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of chronic liver disease worldwide, with prevalence above 30% in many adult populations. Strongly associated with obesity, weight loss through diet and physical activity is the mainstay of its management. Weight loss can be difficult to achieve and maintain however, and uncertainty exists as to which lifestyle changes are most effective.

Objective The aim of this work was to systematically evaluate randomised controlled trials assessing diet, exercise or combination interventions aimed at reducing steatosis or markers of NAFLD activity.

Design Medline, Scopus and Cochrane databases were searched from 1 January 1980 through to 31 July 2016, for intervention trials assessing the effects of diet, weight loss, exercise or any combination thereof, on NAFLD disease markers in human adults. Risk of publication bias and study quality was assessed using the American Dietetic Association Quality Criteria Checklist.

Results From a total of 1710 identified records, 24 articles met the inclusion and exclusion criteria; 6 assessed weight loss using dietary restriction, 10 assessed exercise and 8 were combination interventions. While all of the trials demonstrated significant reduction in steatosis and/or markers of NAFLD activity, combination interventions appear to be the most effective at improving NAFLD. Results suggest that 5–10% weight loss using a modestly hypocaloric diet of 500 kcal less per day than calculated energy requirement, in combination with 30–60 min exercise on 3–5 days per week should be recommended.

Conclusions We conclude this amount of weight loss is achievable in the trial setting but is challenging in the clinical environment. High-intensity, multidisciplinary intervention in specialist clinics is likely to be required in order to manage NAFLD by lifestyle modification alone. This systematic review protocol was registered prospectively at PROSPERO as CRD42016032764.

  • DIET

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