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Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism
Volume 2012, Article ID 827417, 8 pages
Review Article

Putative Factors That May Modulate the Effect of Exercise on Liver Fat: Insights from Animal Studies

1Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University, 17671 Athens, Greece
2Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA
3Department of Geriatrics & Nutritional Science, Center for Human Nutrition, Washington University School of Medicine, Campus Box 8031, Saint Louis, MO 63110, USA

Received 13 June 2011; Accepted 11 July 2011

Academic Editor: Jean-Marc Lavoie

Copyright © 2012 Faidon Magkos. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


An increase in intrahepatic triglyceride (IHTG) content is the hallmark of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and is strongly associated with insulin resistance and dyslipidemia. Although regular aerobic exercise improves metabolic function, its role in regulating fat accumulation in the liver is incompletely understood, and human data are scarce. Results from exercise training studies in animals highlight a number of potential factors that could possibly mediate the effect of exercise on liver fat, but none of them has been formally tested in man. The effect of exercise on IHTG content strongly depends on the background diet, so that exercise is more effective in reducing IHTG under conditions that favor liver fat accretion (e.g., when animals are fed high-fat diets). Concurrent loss of body weight or visceral fat does not appear to mediate the effect of exercise on IHTG, whereas sex (males versus females), prandial status (fasted versus fed), and duration of training, as well as the time elapsed from the last bout of exercise could all be affecting the observed exercise-induced changes in IHTG content. The potential importance of these factors remains obscure, thus providing a wide array of opportunities for future research on the effects of exercise (and diet) on liver fat accumulation.