Guest blog post by Fiona Kane from Informed Health
Does it mean you are eating too much fat?
No, fatty liver has very little to do with eating too much fat! Fatty liver disease is the excess storage of fat around the liver which is commonly caused by either excessive alcohol known as alcoholic liver disease (ALD) or the excess consumption of refined carbohydrates (particularly fructose) and trans fats known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Some other possible causes are medications, viral hepatitis and auto immune disease.
NAFLD can progress to non- alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH can lead to permanent liver damage. The liver may enlarge and, over time, liver cells may be replaced by scar tissue. This is called cirrhosis, when you have cirrhosis, depending on how much of your liver is affected, the liver can no longer function properly and you are at risk of developing liver failure and liver cancer. NASH is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis. Recent studies show that an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine and other changes in the intestine may be associated with NAFLD. Some researchers now suspect that this may play a role in the progression of NAFLD to NASH.
Why is the liver so important? Here are just some of the reasons why:
- Processes carbohydrate, fat and protein and converts them to energy for your cells
- Detoxifies any toxins such as drugs, alcohol and pesticides
- Produces bile which is needed to break down and digest fat
- Stores glycogen (energy)
- Stores important vitamins and minerals
What does this all mean to me?
Studies have shown by reducing your carbohydrate intake, (especially sugar/fructose) and ensuring adequate protein, your body actually starts to use the fatty deposits around your liver for energy!
The liver is an extremely important organ and plays several crucial roles in the body! It is vital to ensure that your liver is working properly!
It is important to remember these two facts:
- Fatty liver can occur after drinking moderate or large amounts of alcohol but did you know that it can even occur after a short period of heavy drinking and is known as acute alcoholic liver disease.
- Fatty liver can occur in people who never drink alcohol from eating too much carbohydrate/sugar, and it can happen within a few weeks of starting to eat a high carbohydrate/sugar diet!
A special note about fructose
Fructose heavy diets are big issue. It is OK to have some fructose in whole fruit where it is naturally found along with loads of nutrients and fibre. Though, more often than not the common source of dietary fructose is from packaged foods (eg cereals, sauces) and junk foods as well as any kind of sweet drink, soft drink, iced tea, fruit juice, flavoured milk, energy drinks etc. Also from added table sugar which is half fructose.
Fructose is known to cause metabolic disruption, it can’t be used as energy and therefore becomes visceral fat around the liver (this is the kind of fat that causes major health issues. Fructose also stops appetite control, so you never feel full! Many so called diet/low fat drinks/foods and contain fructose as one of the largest ingredients! Also be aware of ingredients such as fruit juice, fruit concentrate, dried fruit and agave which are all very high in fructose.
Table sugar is made up from glucose and fructose. They are both very differently treated within the body.
- 80% metabolised by all organs
- 20% metabolised by liver
- 100% metabolised by liver
- Is a chronic, dose dependant liver toxin, just like alcohol.
- Alcohol is metabolised to fat, so is fructose.
- And fructose drives FATTY LIVER & INSULIN RESISTANCE!
If you want to keep a healthy liver, avoid excess alcohol and avoid sugar/fructose except for in real whole foods it naturally comes in for example fresh fruit and vegetables. The average Australian diet is very high in sugar/fructose. Take a good look at what you eat every day including what you put into the kids lunch box. A typical diet of cereal, juice, yoghurt, flavoured milk, fruit bars and sandwiches would easily put your liver health in danger and this is how people often eat when they are “being healthy”. When you start adding junk food, soft drinks and alcohol to this mix you can end up in real trouble. I highly recommend watching That Sugar Film which is available on DVD, it is a funny and entertaining film that shows how quickly you can develop Fatty Liver Disease by eating a typical “healthy” Australian diet! A great film; suitable for the whole family.
Informed Health Nutritional Wellbeing Centre