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Obesity-the Liver Connection

8/26 17:22:47

We are exposed to an estimated 600 billion pounds of synthetic chemicals every year, according to Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health.1

After reviewing 120 scientific papers on the link between environmental pollution and human disease, Cornell University researchers concluded in July 2007 that various toxins found in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and food we eat contribute to 40 percent of deaths worldwide.2 Many of these toxins are fat soluble, often becoming lodged in our fat cells. Korean researchers discovered that people with high levels of these toxins are more likely than the general population to suffer from type 2 diabetes.3

We can and should do our part in helping to clean up the environment, but we also need to deal with the pollution that is invading our bodies and destroying our metabolisms. When it comes to cleaning up our interior environments, we need to pay respect to an often overlooked and overworked organ-the liver.

The liver is the largest of your internal organs and is responsible for performing over 500 different chemical functions, some of which include the metabolism of foods, blood sugar control, hormone control, manufacturing various proteins and fats, and producing a substance called bile that the body uses for digestion and detoxification.

The liver obesity connection
Excess body fat has long been recognized as a risk factor for liver disease and, conversely, a healthy liver can greatly increase fat-burning ability. According to the latest research, obesity puts us at higher risk for liver disease than alcoholism. Inflammation of the liver or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is increasing at an alarming rate and is directly linked to obesity and overeating. In fact, obesity is now believed to be the number one cause of liver disease.4

Some research indicates that liver toxicity leads to excess body fat, which, in turn, increases odds of liver disease and dysfunction. Sluggish liver metabolism can be assessed by measuring the levels of specific enzymes within the liver. For instance, elevations in the liver enzyme ALAT (alanine aminotransferase) indicate cellular damage. One study in the International Journal of Obesity showed elevated levels of ALAT in over 90 percent of obese participants.5

Not so little—little ones
Adults are not the only ones suffering from excess body fat. In fact, over 30 percent of our children are now overweight or obese. Research shows that liver problems are also prevalent in childhood obesity. One study indicated that elevated liver enzymes were significantly higher in obese children compared to normal weight children. The researchers concluded that early liver assessment is recommended for children suffering from obesity.6

Enhance your metabolism
Due to the overwhelming evidence linking an over-stressed liver to an inefficient metabolism, the following tips will help keep your liver as healthy as possible.

  • To cleanse and reestablish healthy liver function, consume some or all of the following nutrients: artichoke, milk thistle, dandelion, d-glucarate, NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) and TMG (trimethylglycine).
  • Consume a whey protein shake containing high levels of alphalactalbumin. High-alpha whey isolates boost one of the liver's most powerful detoxifying agents-glutathione.7
  • Exercise regularly: research shows that exercise helps to enhance glucose uptake in the liver and thereby lower fatty liver disease.8
  • Consume high quality dietary fibre: fibre enhances liver health by binding to bile and eliminating fat-soluble toxins from the body.
  • Make sure to supplement with extra B vitamins, which are essential in decongesting the liver and promoting fat metabolism.
  1. Epstein S. The Politics of Cancer. East Ridge Press. New York, NY. 1998
  2. Pimentel D., et al. Ecology of Increasing Diseases: Population Growth and Environmental Degradation. Human Ecology. Published online: 31 July 2007 http://www.springerlink.com/content/b7r43221531065l3/
  3. Pearson A. Obesity's helper in triggering diabetes. New Scientist. Issue#2599. April, 2007
  4. Kingsland J. Liver disease: the silent epidemic. New Scientist. Issue#2597. April, 2007
  5. Golik A, et al. Elevated serum liver enzymes in obesity: a dilemma during clinical trials. Int J Obes. 1991 Dec;15(12):797-801.
  6. Elitsur Y, Lawrence Z. The prevalence of obesity and elevated liver enzymes in children at a university gastroenterology clinic. W V Med J. 2004 Mar-Apr;100(2):67-9.
  7. Middleton N, Jelen P, Bell G. Whole blood and mononuclear cell glutathione response to dietary whey protein supplementation in sedentary and trained male human subjects. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2004 Mar;55(2):131-41.
  8. Adams LA, Angulo P.Recent concepts in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Diabet Med. 2005 Sep;22(9):1129-33. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1464-5491.2005.01748.x?cookieSet=1
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