Does your liver need to go on a diet?
It may not sound all that threatening—having a fat liver—but it can and does cause more problems than most people realize. It’s also more prevalent than may have been suspected, too. Fatty liver used to be associated almost exclusively with alcoholism, but due to our calorie-rich and nutrient-poor diet, there is now a near epidemic of non-alcoholic fatty liver unhealth that parallels rising obesity and diabetes rates. In fact, studies indicate that up to 75 percent of the obese and 70 percent to 85 percent of Type 2 diabetics have fatty livers.
As mentioned, being overweight is a major risk factor for fatty liver, so if you’re carrying around excess pounds, then you may want to consider just how much that extra weight is affecting your liver health. Likewise, those with unbalanced blood sugar and triglyceride levels, as well as those who undergo rapid weight loss or who are malnourished, may also be at risk. Some people, however, can develop a fatty liver without any of these situations, so everyone should be aware.
One of the primary ways of paving the way to an unhealthy liver is consuming excessive calories. Here’s why: when the liver doesn’t process and break down fats as it should, too much fat accumulates around it. A fatty liver may cause no damage at all or it may lead to liver inflammation, which can cause liver damage. This may, in turn, lead to tissue scarring and/or hardening of the liver (cirrhosis) and can ultimately lead to liver failure.
More specifically, fatty liver unhealth develops in two stages. At first, fat accumulates in the liver and can come from many sources, including the intake of unhealthy carbs like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and too much table sugar. In this first stage, there are typically no outward symptoms. Unfortunately, this accumulated fat can be adversely affected by oxidative stress and lead to the second stage—an unhealthy inflammatory response that is worsened by our dietary omega-6 to omega-3 imbalance. The result of the second stage? Scarring, potential liver failure or severe liver unhealth.
The truth is that non-alcoholic related liver unhealth is a global problem and, like the growing obesity trend, is reaching epidemic proportions worldwide—and the number of people at risk for developing chronic liver issues is likely to increase.
You can support your liver’s health by eating a healthy diet and not overeating. One key nutrient that you may want to include, too, is choline, since choline supports healthy fat metabolism in the liver—and nutrition surveys say that most Americans consume far less choline than is recommended. You can find choline in these foods: pastured organic eggs, grassfed organic beef, veal, turkey, organic peanut butter, wild salmon, Brussels sprouts and broccoli—to mention a few. You should also safely lose any excess weight—at the rate of about one-to-two pounds per week—and increase your physical activity. Maintaining healthy triglyceride and blood sugar levels is smart, too.
Treating your liver right is important because it does so much. For instance, it manufactures blood-clotting factors and synthesizes proteins, including one called albumin, which helps maintain blood volume. It also metabolizes fats, including fatty acids and cholesterol. Additionally, the liver metabolizes and stores carbohydrates, which are used for the glucose that red blood cells and the brain use. It also aids in the intestinal absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. As if that weren’t enough, the liver also eliminates harmful biochemical bodily products and helps to detoxify the body.
Since proper liver function is so foundational for health, fatty liver is currently the focus of intense research.
One thing’s for sure, though. You don’t want to be caught with a “tubby” liver.