Why is Liver Cancer on the Rise?

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By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

August 27, 2018

  • Is NAFLD driving the surge in liver cancer?
  • Two ways to love your liver
  • Give your liver the nutrition it needs

In a shocking turn of events, death rates for liver cancer increased an astonishing 43% in just 16 years – from 2000 to 2016. Considering that the majority of other cancers have remained relatively stable over the same period, this is extremely disturbing!

Now, there are many well-known contributors to the development of liver cancer. These include excess alcohol consumption, hepatitis C infection and diabetes.

But have these factors gotten so out of hand that they, alone, can account for this steep rise? Or is there another contributing factor that is often overlooked?

Well it turns out that, these days, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is reaching epidemic proportions. And NAFLD related liver cancers are rising right along with it. They’ve surged a whopping 400% since 2002.

This means NAFLD is now the second most common reason for liver transplant here in the U.S. (Liver transplants in hepatitis C patients has the number one spot.)

The problem is NAFLD is invisible. You can’t see it, and it’s unlikely you’ll feel any symptoms until serious problems set in. Most people don’t even know they’re at risk for the disease until they’re diagnosed with it.

On the other hand, NAFLD is entirely preventable. And when caught in the early stages it’s even reversible.

This means there is no time better than right now to start taking care of your liver. Ask your doctor for your liver enzymes tests at your next appointment.

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Two Ways to Love Your Liver

It’s pretty common knowledge that excess weight and metabolic disorders like diabetes go hand-in-hand. What is not as widely known is that being overweight and/or having poor insulin and blood glucose control also go hand-in-hand with fatty liver.

This means that the same things that are good for your weight and metabolism are also good for your liver.

The foods you choose to eat should be at the top of your list. In particular, a Mediterranean style diet filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil and fish – but low in dairy products and meat – is the most effective way of eating when it comes to weight loss, metabolic disorders and NAFLD.

(Notice that processed and sugary foods, unhealthy fats and refined carbs aren’t a part of the Mediterranean diet.)

Next on the list is to get moving! If you’ve been sedentary for awhile, I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my patients. Walking is a great place to start. In the beginning, just walk at an increasingly brisk pace for 30 minutes three times a week.

As you become more conditioned you can start adding in some high intensity interval training (HIIT). This type of exercise helps to reduce liver fat and improve your body composition. Just make sure to get your doctor’s permission first.

The cornerstone of HIIT is interspersing short bursts of intense exercise followed by brief periods of rest…. say walking normally for two to three minutes, then kicking it up to a brisk walk, jog or sprint (depending on your current physical condition).

It only takes about 15 minutes a day, four to five days a week.

Give Your Liver the Support it Needs

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If you need extra nutritional help, here are some of the supplements I recommend to my patients who require added liver support.

Milk thistle (420–600 mg daily) seems to be especially effective when it comes to fatty liver, since the antioxidant activity has both direct and indirect effects on inflammation and scarring in the liver cells.

Choline (500 mg daily). Choline deficiency in humans is associated with an increased risk for NAFLD. And while many foods contain choline, some of the highest sources come from foods that most people often don’t eat a lot of, like liver, eggs and seafood.

Vitamin D3 (5000 IU daily). People with low levels of vitamin D are about 26% more likely to develop fatty liver than those with adequate levels. This is a nutrient that about three out of four people here in the U.S. have insufficient levels of.

N-acetylcysteine (500 mg three times daily) reduces levels of ALT, an enzyme associated with NAFLD and liver damage. And is a critical component in your bodys’ production of glutathione, the master antioxidant.

Omega-3 fatty acids (1000 mg twice daily) help reduce the build up of fat in over half of people with fatty liver, and can even lead to complete fatty liver regression in many people.

Vitamin E (800-1000 IU daily) is recommended by the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease as first line therapy for non-diabetic adults with NASH, the most severe form of fatty liver. It is associated with a 43% rate of improvement compared to a 19% improvement shown with placebo.

Curcumin (500 mg twice daily) reduces liver fat content by as much as 78%.

I also recommend berberine (500 mg two times daily, pantethine (500-700 mg daily), alpha lipoic acid (300-600 mg twice a day) and melatonin (3-5 mg before bedtime).


Trends in Liver Cancer Mortality Among Adults Aged 25 and Over in the United States, 2000–2016. NCHS Data Brief No. 314, July 2018.

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Feng-Shang Zhu, et al. Effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from seal oils on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease associated with hyperlipidemia. World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Nov 7; 14(41): 6395–6400.

Chalasani N, et al. The diagnosis and management of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Practice guidance from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Hepatology. 2018 Jan;67(1):328-357.

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