From the Journals

The Mediterranean diet, already beneficial in NAFLD, gets a green boost


A new dietary tool for combating obesity

The rising global incidence of NAFLD has made it even more urgent to identify new and improved ways of preventing the onset of obesity-related complications. To aid those efforts, we’ve been equipped with useful tools for educating our patients and their families, such as the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which makes a clear case for the disease-combating effects of healthy eating patterns.

This message does not appear to be making the impact it should, however, particularly among teens and young adults. It was recently reported that in 2017, only 7% of U.S. high school students consumed recommended amounts of fruits and only 2% consumed enough vegetables to meet USDA recommendations.

Novel approaches, including enhanced school and community programs, will be required to address this issue, but so will presenting patients with satisfactory dietary alternatives. Compellingly, DIRECT-PLUS investigators reported an 89.8% retention rate at 18 months among volunteers, who were able to comply with the dietary regimen with no significant complaints regarding taste. This signals that even though the “green” modification is more stringent than the typical Mediterranean regimen, it is one to which participants can adhere.

Although the real-world applicability of this diet remains to be seen, DIRECT-PLUS gives us encouraging evidence that a Mediterranean diet amplified with green plant-based proteins/polyphenols can lead to twice the intrahepatic fat loss, as compared to other nutritional strategies, and reduce the rate of NAFLD.

And as we know, having another dietary option to offer our patients is always a welcome addition to the menu.

Dr. Balistreri is with the department of hepatology & nutrition at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Iris Shai, PhD, one of the authors of the study, “Effect of green-Mediterranean diet on intrahepatic fat: the DIRECT PLUS randomised controlled trial,” is an adviser to Hinoman, which markets Mankai. Ilan Youngster, MD, another author of that study, is medical adviser for MyBiotics.

A version of this article first appeared on

This article was updated May 21, 2021.


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