Is your liver getting fat?

You may have gotten used to your doc telling you that you've put on some extra weight.

While he might not go so far as to say you've gotten "fat," you may have the sneaking suspicion that that's what he's thinking.

But there is one time that your doc will tell it like it is and not mince words: when you've got a fatty liver.

Now, you may think of liver problems to be something that only boozers have to worry about, but there's actually a kind of fatty liver that can happen even if you're a teetotaler.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is not yet understood very well in the medical community. We know that, to some extent, it's hereditary... and linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

But researchers have recently discovered that there's a simple step you can take to improve fatty liver -- and if you've already jumped on the Paleo bandwagon, you're going to love this.

All you have to do is eat more protein!

Fatty liver disease is defined as when fat comprises 5 to 10 percent of your liver. Over time, it can lead to cirrhosis and even death.

But a new study has found that increasing your intake of lean protein can reduce fat levels in your liver.

German researchers modified the diets of 37 diabetics aged 49 to 78 to increase their protein consumption from 17 percent of their total food intake to 40 percent.

The subjects were randomly selected to eat either animal protein -- like fish, poultry, and dairy -- or plant-based pea protein.

Regardless of the type of protein the subjects received, it took just six weeks of following a diet that was proportionately higher in protein to reduce liver fat by an average of 48 percent!

And some subjects saw their liver fat content reduced by more than half.

Now, you do need some fat in your body for the proper absorption of certain nutrients. You also need it in your brain, which is pretty much made of fat.

That's why we docs are always harping on getting enough of the omega-type fatty acids.

But if there's one place you don't want too much fat, it's around your organs -- and, especially, in your liver. A fatty liver can lead to more serious diseases like cirrhosis of the liver.

It can even become life-threatening.

Fatty liver is well-known as a precursor to type 2 diabetes, but maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help keep your liver in tip-top shape (and can help manage your diabetes if you've already got it).

Now, if you just increase the amount of protein you eat, you're going to gain weight. You can't just start eating double cheeseburgers and going back for seconds of your chicken dinner.

So, you'll have to eat less of something else -- namely, carbs. (I suspect this may have had something to do with the reduction of fat in the liver in the study, too.)

To make it easy on yourself, follow the Paleo diet. It focuses on healthy proteins and minimizes carbohydrates, including starches and refined sugars, which will be pretty much the right recipe if you've got excess fat in your liver (or you want to prevent your liver from getting fat).