Alcohol Isn’t the Only Liver Killer in Your Refrigerator

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

September 28, 2020

Has one of your friends ever made a bad joke about their liver after a night of heavy drinking? You know the jokes I mean…

You might chuckle in the moment, but it’s really no laughing matter. High alcohol consumption can definitely do some serious damage.

That’s because your liver plays an important role in helping your body process those beers you chug while watching the game – or the wine you sip with your late night dinner…or the prescription medication and supplements you take on a daily basis.

Most of us know too much alcohol can lead to a serious problem called fatty liver disease.  But alcohol isn’t the only liver killer you need to worry about.

There’s another criminal in your pantry and refrigerator and it’s much harder to spot. I’m talking about high fructose corn syrup…

Your liver has over 500 vital functions within the body. [1] And when you eat (or drink) too much high fructose corn syrup, fatty acids are created. The result is fat accumulation which leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

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Think back to the 1970s. In those days, it’s unlikely you ever heard of such a disease.  But today, it’s a serious problem affecting between 25% and 30% of all U.S. adults. [2]

That’s one out of every three or four people!

Then, up to one-third of people with NAFLD will develop even more serious liver scarring (called cirrhosis) within 10 years.  All of this leaves fatty liver as the fastest growing reason for liver transplants between adults age 18 to 40 years of age.

(The only disease causing more liver transplants each year is hepatitis C.)

This is a very real concern, so please take this seriously. The death rates for liver cancer in the U.S. have grown by an incredible 43% between the years 2000 and 2016.[3]

NAFLD is also closely related to heart disease. People with this condition are likely to have hypertension, obesity, and insulin resistance – all of which can lead to a higher rate of death from heart attack compared to the general population.

So, let’s get back to the root of the problem. Why is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) so bad for your liver?

Fructose, or fruit sugar, used to be a very small part of our diet. Back in the early 1900s, the average American only ate about 16 grams of fructose per day – mostly from eating fruits and vegetables. [5] In its’ natural and unprocessed state in fruits and vegetables it’s slowly digested and absorbed and causes no problems.

Jumping ahead to today, that number has exploded.  We have four or five times that amount in the form of refined sugars in breakfast cereals, pastries, sodas, and fruit drinks.  The liver takes this fructose and creates tiny fat droplets through a process called lipogenesis.

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The HFCS in soft-drinks and processed foods is related to high levels of obesity and NAFLD. In fact, it’s an even bigger problem than high levels of dietary fat intake.[6]

Other clinical studies found that reducing sugary beverages and total fructose intake can dramatically help reduce liver fat accumulation. [7]

Protect Your Liver with a Modified Diet

One of the best ways to protect yourself from the dangers of NAFLD is to watch your intake of refined sugars in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

This means you should replace your sodas and processed treats with healthier options.  I know this can be a little tricky.  It’s sometimes hard to know which “health” foods are actually good for your body. Oftentimes, these foods are given misleading labels to hide the high sugar content within.

For instance, if you replace your soda with a vitamin water, you’re still getting a whopping 32 grams (almost 10 teaspoonsful) of sugar mostly in the form of fructose.[8]  That granola bar you eat instead of the pastry is also chock-full of sugars.

Instead of granola and snack bars, reach for things like fresh fruits and berries.  Try some raw veggies with hummus, pumpkin seeds, nuts, or other natural treats.

Instead of the soda or sugary fruit juices, look for drinks which are 100% pure and natural with a low sugar content.  You could also drink iced tea and lemon water instead of indulging in juice.

When it comes to sweeteners, I suggest you go the natural route once again.  Honestly, I don’t use sweeteners at all unless it’s organic, pure cane sugar.  I might use some of this in my gluten free cream of buckwheat or rice or oatmeal. Organic honey is another safe option to sweeten your food.

Regardless of which route you go, definitely do not use those non sugar sweeteners.  They actually fool your brain into thinking you had something sweet. This can lead to a higher risk of health issues like weight gain, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.[9] The newest addition being Splenda, which as sucralose is a chlorinated sucrose potentially affecting your thyroid gland too.)

Instead, eat a Mediterranean diet filled with healthy fats, high quality proteins and plenty of antioxidants.  (Blueberries are my absolute favorite for this.)  Keep your red meat to a minimum and eat plenty of healthy fatty fish.

You should also focus your meals around organic, plant-based foods.  Don’t eat too much wheat or pasta with this modified Mediterranean meal plan and your liver will be much healthier.

Sources:

[1] Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Liver: Anatomy and Functions,” Available Online:  https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/liver-anatomy-and-functions

[2] Adams LA, Lindor KD. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Ann Epidemiol. 2007;17:863–869. Available Online: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17728149/

[3]Xu, Jiaquan, M.D., “Trends in Liver Cancer Mortality Among Adults Ages 25 and Over in the United States, 2000-2016,” CDC: National Center for Health Statistics, NCHS Data Brief No. 314, July 2018, Available Online:  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db314.htm

[4] Azzam, Haneen, and Stephen Malnick. “Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – the heart of the matter.” World journal of hepatology vol. 7,10 (2015): 1369-76. doi:10.4254/wjh.v7.i10.1369, Available Online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4450200/

[5] Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Heart Letter, “Abundance of fructose not good for liver, heart,” Published: Sept 11, 2011, Available Online: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/abundance-of-fructose-not-good-for-the-liver-heart

[6] Basaranoglu, Metin et al. “Carbohydrate intake and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: fructose as a weapon of mass destruction.” Hepatobiliary surgery and nutrition vol. 4,2 (2015): 109-16. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2304-3881.2014.11.05, Available Online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4405421/

[7] Jensen, Thomas et al. “Fructose and sugar: A major mediator of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.” Journal of hepatology vol. 68,5 (2018): 1063-1075. doi:10.1016/j.jhep.2018.01.019, Available Online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5893377/

[8] Bjarnadottir, Adda, MS, RDN, Healthline.com, “5 Reasons Why Vitaminwater is a Bad Idea,” Nov 1, 2018, Available Online: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/5-reasons-why-vitaminwater-is-a-bad-idea

[9] Sifferlin, Alexandra, TIME Magazine, “Artificial Sweeteners Are Linked to Weight Gain—Not Weight Loss,” July 17, 2017, Available Online: https://time.com/4859012/artificial-sweeteners-weight-loss/

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