1 German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Division of Cancer Epidemiology, Im Neuenheimer Feld 581, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
2 Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 110, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
3 Medical Faculty, Heidelberg University, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
4 Huntsman Cancer Institute and University of Utah, Department of Population Health Sciences, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-5550, USA.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can lead to functional liver impairment and severe comorbidities. Beyond energy balance, several dietary factors may increase NAFLD risk, but human studies are lacking. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to investigate the associations between food consumption (47 food groups, derived Mediterranean and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet quality scores) and liver fat content (continuous scale and NAFLD, i.e., >5% liver fat content). Liver fat content was measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in 136 individuals (BMI: 25-40 kg/m2, age: 35-65, 50.7% women) and food intake was recorded by food frequency questionnaires (FFQs). Associations between food items and liver fat were evaluated by multi-variable regression models. Intakes of cake and cookies as well legumes were inversely associated with liver fat content, while positive associations with intakes of high-fat dairy and cheese were observed. Only cake and cookie intake also showed an inverse association with NAFLD. This inverse association was unexpected, but not affected by adjustment for reporting bias. Both diet quality scores were inversely associated with liver fat content and NAFLD. Thus, as smaller previous intervention studies, our results suggest that higher diet quality is related to lower liver fat, but larger trials with iso-caloric interventions are needed to corroborate these findings.