An international group of scientists led by the University of Granada (UGR) has demonstrated that the long-term intake of sunflower or fish oils damages the liver and can cause a series of alterations in it, giving rise to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
Of the three dietary fats studied (olive, sunflower and fish oil), virgin olive oil was ranked as the dietary fat source that best preserves the liver during the ageing process.
NASH, which causes inflammation of the liver that is not caused by alcohol abuse, is a very serious condition and can act as a catalyst for the onset of other diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Its prevalence in the general population increases with age: it affects 1% to 3% of children, 5% of teenagers, 18% of those aged between 20 and 40, 39% of those aged between 40 and 50, and more than 40% of those over 70.
The research, recently published in the prestigious Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, analysed how the long-term consumption of different dietary fat sources such as olive, sunflower and fish oil affects the liver of rats. UGR researchers conducted a series of comprehensive analyses, including studies of pathological anatomy, ultrastructural analyses using electron microscopes, sophisticated bioenergy techniques, telomere length measurements, and oxidative stress. Most importantly, they conducted a comprehensive study of the liver genome in order to establish how it evolved in line with the consumption of the different oils.
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