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Soy may help fight fatty livers

SOYA milk and tofu may reduce the build-up of harmful fat in the liver, say scientists. New research suggests soy protein may protect against "fatty liver disease", a condition linked to obesity that can lead to liver failure.

Scientists in the US compared the livers of lean and obese rats fed a diet containing either milk or soy protein.

No differences were seen in lean animals. But obese rats fed soy showed a 20pc reduction in overall levels of fat accumulation in the liver. Triglycerides, a type of fat known to be harmful to the heart, were reduced by the same level.

Study leader Dr Hong Chen, from the University of Illinois, said: "Almost a third of American adults have fatty liver disease, many of them without symptoms. Obesity is a key risk factor for this condition, which can lead to liver failure."

Soy protein appears to help repair a key signalling pathway in the liver involved in fat metabolism, said the scientists. This made it harder for the liver to become a "dumping ground" for excess fat.

"In many obese persons there's a sort of traffic problem, and when more fat can make its way out of the liver, there's less pressure on the organ," said Dr Chen.