By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
January 2, 2015
- So-called “healthy” foods can get you in trouble
- This is your liver on sugar
- … And here’s what you can do about it
You know sugar isn’t good for you. So, if you’re like my patients, you probably don’t eat a lot of pastries, candies and other sugar-filled treats. Soft drinks and other sugary beverages are saved for special occasions.
Unfortunately, it’s what you don’t know about sugar that can get you into big trouble.
You see, when you give up that pastry for a granola bar… or replace your soda with vitamin water… well, you might be getting a lot more sugar than you bargained for. That’s because a lot of healthy-sounding foods are chock-full of sugars.
This point has never been driven home as well as it is in a new documentary that’s being released in February, called “That Sugar Film.”
For 60 days, Australian actor Damon Gameau dined on low-fat foods that we perceive as being healthy – like low-fat yogurt, fruit juices, cereals and sports drinks. Unfortunately, these foods also have high sugar content.
In a matter of weeks, he felt horrible. And, when he went to the doctor, he received some bad news. His new diet added 10 cm of visceral fat around his waist, which put him on track for obesity. His mental functioning started to decline. To make matters even worse, Damon had the beginnings of fatty liver disease.
With the amount of sugar found in today’s “healthy” foods, this is a big concern for everyone.
Let’s take a look at the problem…
It’s a shame when tricky food manufacturers fool you into eating healthy-sounding foods that can have such a negative impact on your health. And, believe me, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is no laughing matter. It’s the most common form of chronic liver disease in America today.
Up to 30% of Americans have this condition. But the numbers are even worse for people with diabetes. It’s estimated that a whopping 70% of diabetics have NAFLD.
This is a potentially life-threatening disease. It occurs when your liver has trouble breaking down fats. This causes fat to build up in your liver tissue. Over time, this can trigger inflammation, scarring of the liver, and cirrhosis. It could even lead to liver cancer or liver failure.
Now, here’s the thing. There are no medical treatments for NAFLD. That means it’s left in your hands to eat a healthy diet to prevent liver damage from starting in the first place. Or, if you’re lucky, reverse it in the early stages.
To start with, this includes really examining nutrition labels for sugar content – even if the food sounds healthy.
Granola bars and other snack bars sound healthy. And, some of them might even have some health benefits. But, when you read the labels on most of them, the ingredients may leave you reeling. The majority of these “healthy” snacks are loaded with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), not to mention all of the unhealthy preservatives and other additives.
Healthier snack choices: Fresh fruits and berries, raw veggies with hummus, pumpkin seeds, nuts and other natural treats.
Vitamin water sure seems like it should be a healthy choice of beverage. But the name is nothing more than a marketing ploy. These drinks are basically sugared-down water with a pinch of vitamins added to it. A single bottle of the stuff contains over 30 grams of sugar.
Healthier water choices: Plain, old-fashioned distilled water. Add a squirt of lemon, lime or orange to give it a kick.
Fruit juices also seem like a healthy choice. The idea is that you can get all the nutrition found in a fresh fruit in just a couple of swallows. And most of them taste pretty yummy. But, beware! Many juices have only a little bit of real juice in them. And, again… it’s the sugar that will kill you. Manufacturers sometimes add a boatload of sugar to make these juices tastier. And some juices, like Tropicana Orangeade, even contain HFCS.
Healthier juice choices: Look for 100% pure and natural, then check the sugar content. You might be better off eating the fruit itself, where you can get the added benefit of pulp and fiber to offset the natural sugar found in the fruit.
Commercial fruit smoothies, flavored yogurt, canned fruit, dried fruit, sports drinks, granola, low-fat/no-fat salad dressings and other healthy-sounding foods are also tricky sources of hidden sugars. This can be true, even if they’re labeled “all natural.”
In addition to watching your sugars, here are a few more tips for protecting your liver…
The earlier you take steps to halt NAFLD, the easier it is to get the upper hand on it. Cutting out sugar is at the top of the list. It’s also important to watch your alcohol consumption, since it can make matters worse. And, as always, the more closely you can stick to a Mediterranean-style diet, the better off you’ll be.
There are also a few supplements that pack a lot of power when it comes to your liver health:
N-acetylcysteine (NAC). People with fatty liver all have one thing in common. They have reduced glutathione levels. Your body doesn’t manufacturer glutathione on its own. And glutathione supplements are not very well absorbed by your body. However NAC is a glutathione precursor that can boost your glutathione stores. Take 600 mg. twice daily.
Milk thistle contains flavonoids that support liver function by raising protective glutathione levels. Take 420–600 mg. of silymarin per day from an herbal extract of milk thistle standardized to 80 percent silymarin content.
Phosphatidylcholine helps to prevent fat from being deposited in the liver. It can also help break down scar tissue and bolster the function of liver cells. Take 900 mg. a day of this nutritional supplement to improve liver function.
Don’t wait to start protecting your liver. Cut sugars out of your diet for good, start eating a healthy, plant-based diet, and invest in supplements that will keep your liver healthy and happy for years to come.
Khoshbaten M, et al. “N-acetylcysteine improves liver function in patients with non-alcoholic Fatty liver disease.” Hepat Mon. 2010 Winter;10(1):12-6.
Cacciapuoti F, et al. “Silymarin in non alcoholic fatty liver disease” World J Hepatol. Mar 27, 2013; 5(3): 109–113.
Duric M, et al. “Phosphatidylcholine functional foods and nutraceuticals: A potential approach to prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.” European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology. Volume 114, Issue 4, pages 389–398, Apr 2012.