You probably know that knocking back a few too many beers can put your liver under the gun, but we’ve collated a few other unexpected offenders for a range of liver diseases. We think number 3 is the most surprising culprit – read on to find out why, plus a few healthier foods to give your liver a much-needed boost.
Liver disease is on the rise – and our diets hold a great deal of the blame. This dangerous condition is responsible for 2 million deaths every year, along with holding a presence in 25% of the population. But it’s not just alcoholics struggling with liver damage – those of you who haven’t even touched a drop of liquor could end up with liver disease. Alarmingly,one study found that even kids are developing this condition at higher rates, with 12% affected. Let’s find out what the 5 most dangerous foods for your liver are – plus a few alternatives to keep you happy and healthy.
Sugar is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to liver damage and disease – and this ubiquitous stuff is sneaking into our household staples at alarming rates. From bread and yoghurt to premade meals and cereals, it’s getting harder to find an ingredient list free from added sugars – but here’s why it’s an issue. Our livers are responsible for breaking down the fructose in sugar, and when we overwhelm it – which is easy to do with a can of soft drink packing a whopping 9 teaspoons of sugar, exceeding the daily limit of 6 teaspoons for women – we end up with visceral fat. This is the stuff that wraps around the abdominal organs, making it more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, which is found between the skin and the abdominal wall. Visceral fat can then lead to fatty liver disease – and this is where people will find themselves in trouble. Sugar is one of the biggest contributors to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is projected to become the become the leading cause of late-stage liver disease within the next 10 years. So, it’s best to reduce – or cut out – your intake of added sugars to protect your liver. If you’re after something sweet, go for blueberries – these antioxidant-rich berries are loaded with liver-protecting fibre and have been associated with a significant reduction of chronic liver injury.
You’re probably not surprised to see this stuff on the list – alcohol is one of the most well-known causes of liver disease, causing nearly 45% of deaths from this condition in the US. But what you might not know is just how damaging long-term consumption can be, even if you’re not getting drunk every time. Our livers have an important job in clearing out toxins – including alcohol – but the issue arises as liver cells die every time we drink alcoholic beverages. While these cells can regenerate, if we drink excessively over the years this regenerative ability will be impaired, leading to permanent damage to the liver. Water, tea and coffee are the better drink alternatives – in fact, research found that drinking coffee may actually reduce the risk of developing liver cirrhosis by 44%. But do keep in mind, it may frazzle your nervous system in the process! As is the case with most things, moderation is key.
High-dose vitamin A
You might not suspect your vitamins when it comes to liver damage, but some companies are peddling extremely high doses which can have a range of dangerous effects. Vitamin A is one such supplement that, when consumed in doses over 10, 000 IU daily, could result in liver damage. This is because the liver plays a major role in metabolising this vitamin, with between 50 and 90% of our vitamin stored in the liver. So, when we take in too much of this vitamin, we start to see an overwhelming accumulation that can result in liver damage, along with a range of other health issues as a result of toxicity – these include vision changes, skin issues, bone pain and alopecia. So, keep an eye on your vitamin dosage! Or, better yet, load up on vitamin A with whole foods:
- Leafy greens
- Yoghurt and cheese
- Yellow capsicum
We need far less vitamin A than the megadoses provided by some brands, so keep in mind that the recommendation is 3000 IU for men and 2330 IU for women – to put that into perspective, there’s around 520 IU in a single egg.
Consuming too much added salt can skyrocket your risk for developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is because excess salt can result in high blood pressure and fibrosis – especially in highly-processed foods which exceed the daily limit like canned soups, packaged noodle soups and chips.
Fibrosis of the liver is characterised by scarring, which, if left untreated, it could result in deadly diseases like cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. Maybe hold off on those 2-minute noodles! Or better yet, whip up our healthy noodle rendition recipe when you get a craving for that classic snack.
Foods high in trans fats can indirectly damage your liver, and this has to do with the liver’s role in breaking down fats and helping us use them for energy. Here’s where the problem starts – too much fatty foods, especially the deep-fried kind, could put our livers under the gun and result in the development of visceral fat, which is the bad kind we mentioned earlier. This could lead to fatty liver disease, along with inflammation which leaves us vulnerable to other diseases – from autoimmune conditions to metabolic diseases. Take a look at some of the foods to avoid:
- Fried chips or wedges
- Fried fish and chicken
- Highly-processed meats – pepperoni packs a whopping 89% of our daily limit for saturated fat for every 100 grams!
- Commercial baked cakes
Swap your margarine out for olive oil – this stuff is loaded with omega 3 and antioxidants which help maintain healthy liver enzyme levels, thereby reducing our risk of damage.
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