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Can Fatty Liver Be Reversed? Doctors Say This Simple Drink Swap Can Help

Plus see three more lifestyle tweaks that take 10 minutes (or less!) and can make a big difference

If you’ve been diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), you may be wondering: Can fatty liver be reversed? Long story short: There are ways you can manage and even turn back the disease before it progresses into more dangerous territory. Here, we take a deeper dive into easy tricks that can help and how long it takes to reverse a fatty liver.

What is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

First, don’t be surprised if you hear your doctor refer to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease differently. That’s because in 2023, the name of the disease was officially changed to metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD) to better explain what the condition actually is.

That said, the disease itself hasn’t changed. MASLD “is when you have excess fat within the cells of the liver,” explains Kathleen Corey, MD, MPH, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Fatty Liver Clinic in Boston.

Dr. Corey says that for some people, this build-up of fat can cause inflammation that may lead to scar tissue. When that happens, it’s called metabolic dysfunction-associated steatohepatitis, or MASH. Ultimately, if there’s significant scarring, it may cause cirrhosis of the liver. This puts you at a higher risk for things like liver cancer or a liver transplant.

People with conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol/triglycerides, high blood pressure or who have excess weight are at a higher risk of MASLD, says Dr. Corey. And while it’s common — it affects upwards of 100 million people in the US — most don’t experience any symptoms. That said, some people may have symptoms like fatigue or abdominal pain, especially in the upper right side, adds Sheena B. Patel, MD, a gastroenterologist with Gastro Health in Ohio.

Since fatty liver is typically referred to as a “silent disease”, meaning it has no or few symptoms, it can be tough to know if you have it. But once you do (it’s diagnosed through imaging like an ultrasound or CT scan) acting upon it is important, says Dr. Corey.

Can fatty liver be reversed?

Thankfully, the answer is yes. “In many cases, [fatty liver] can be reversed,” says Dr. Corey. “And certainly the earlier that it’s caught, the more likely it is to be reversed.” Things do get trickier once fatty liver progresses to cirrhosis, which is possible but very hard to reverse, she adds.

The key to restoring your good health? “Basically how you reverse it is treating the underlying issues,” says Dr. Patel. Depending on what you’re dealing with, that could be losing weight, managing your high blood pressure or high cholesterol, making sure your A1C levels are within your goal if you have diabetes or a combination of those things, she says.

In fact, research shows that losing 5% of your body weight can “improve” MASLD. And if the disease if further along, losing between 7% and 10% can help with MASH.

A mature Black woman smiling while talking to her doctor about fatty liver in a doctor's office
Fly View Productions/Getty

How long does it take to reverse fatty liver?

While each person’s situation is different, Dr. Corey says that it typically takes around a year to reverse fatty liver. “Most of the studies are about 52 weeks up to 72 weeks that they’re looking for the benefit,” she explains.

That said, Dr. Patel has seen changes in patients who lose a substantial amount of body weight in as early as six months. (The six-month mark is usually the time-frame in which patients return to her for another workup, she adds.)

Also good to know: “Ideally, we’d like [MASLD] to regress — that would be the ideal goal,” says Dr. Corey. “But in lieu of that, keeping it stable and preventing progression is key.”

How to reverse fatty liver: 4 easy tips

There are things you can do to help set you on the road to reversal. Here are a few:

1. Ask about medication

If you have MASH, you can ask your doctor about a new prescription medication called Rezdiffra, which was just approved by the FDA in March 2024. “[It’s] been shown to decrease fat, inflammation and, in a subset of people, decrease scarring,” explains Dr. Corey.

2. Get other conditions under control

As mentioned earlier, you want to make sure that any other conditions you have are under control. And that could mean more aggressive treatment, says Dr. Patel. For instance, if a patient with fatty liver and high cholesterol were only managing their cholesterol through diet, Dr. Patel may recommend cholesterol meds, too.

3. Stroll for 10 minutes

A mature woman wearing sunglasses while walking outdoors to reverse fatty liver

As Dr. Corey explains, “I tell my patients often, if you’re doing nothing, let’s start with 10 minutes [of] walking around the neighborhood three times a week.” From there, aim to build it up to 30 minutes at a time, she says. A study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that an exercise routine such as brisk walking for 150 minutes a week (or 30 minutes, 5 days a week) resulted in a reduction in liver fat.

4. Swap soda for carbonated water

“Processed foods, especially sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and baked goods, those tend to really increase the risk of fatty liver,” says Dr. Corey. In fact, research in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology showed that those who drank sugar-sweetened beverages often (anywhere between once a week and once a day) were 2.5 times more likely to develop fatty liver than those who didn’t.

Since the drinks have so much sugar, cutting them out can help you lose weight. And that’s important when it comes getting fatty liver reversed, says Dr. Patel. Plain water is great, but carbonated works, too. That’s what Dr. Patel tells her patients if they want some fizz in their drink.

For more ways to keep your liver healthy:

Weight-Loss Discovery: How 1 Woman Healed Fatty Liver and Lost 101 Lbs in a Year

Liver Cleanse Diet: The Customized Plan to Reboot a Sluggish Liver + Melt Pounds

Doctor + Nutritionist: 10 Easy Ways to Heal a Fatty Liver Fast to Boost Fat Burn by 400%

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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