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Top Ten Tips for Liver Health

Ask what observances October brings to mind and most will answer Halloween – or perhaps Oktoberfest.The first is celebrated with candy consumption, the second with beer drinking – both of which, in excess, are at odds with October’s lesser known identity as National Liver Awareness Month.

While many know that alcohol abuse can damage the liver, a new study from Johns Hopkins University found that eating loads of sugar and fat could also put your liver at risk.The animal research suggests that liver function already compromised by injury is further undermined by high-fat, high-sugar diets.This news represents further progress in the fight against what is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s most serious public health problems – liver disease, which includes hepatitis, cirrhosis and cancer.

The largest intestinal organ, liver filters the blood, stores glycogen for energy needs, and secretes bile that aids fat digestion (just to name a few of the liver’s more than 500 functions).So how do you keep this vital organ in optimum health? We’ve assembled a top ten list of dietary tips to “love your liver.” After all, while moderns associate “love” with the heart, Elizabethans looked to the liver as the seat of passion.Follow this list, and your liver will likely love you back:

1) An Apple for Your Innards: Cornell University researchers found liver cancer cells treated with 50 mg of apple extract decreased cancer cell growth by 57% in one lab study.

2) Make Time for Tea: Compounds contained in green tea may help rehabilitate livers damaged by excessive alcohol consumption, according to animal studies conducted at the University of Chapel Hill.Another lab study from the University of Hong Kong found green tea catechins could reduce inflammation and free radical damage in the event of liver injury.

3) Eat Your Greens: A team of UK and Japanese researchers report that those who eat green vegetables regularly (daily or almost daily) were significantly less likely to die from liver cancer.Try arugula, spinach, kale or romaine lettuce.

4) Avocado is King: In one Japanese animal study, avocado beat out 22 other fruits as the best defense against liver damage.  Another study from the same researchers found avocados appear to lessen the liver damage caused by hepatitis C in rats.

5) Spice It Up: A 2003 study published in the American Journal of Physiology found that rats fed curcumin (a compound in turmeric, the yellow spice used in most traditional curries) were protected against alcohol-induced necrosis of the liver.

6) Plum Healthy: Lab research shows that a polyphenol found in plums, chlorogenic acid, may block the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines during digestion and reduce the risk of liver cancer.Other top sources of chlorogenic acid include cherries, apples, and blueberries.

7) Onions  Stronger the Better: Cornell University researchers found that strong flavored members of the onion family – such as New York Bold, Western Yellow, and shallots – are the best varieties for inhibiting the growth of liver cancer cells in basic research.

8) Astounding Artichoke: In one preliminary study, European researchers found that a flavonoid called silymarin, found in certain artichokes, could help reduce mortality rates among alcoholics with cirrhosis of the liver.

9) Reduce Alcohol Consumption: When you overload your liver with alcohol, all of the organ’s resources are going to burning off the booze.This can lead to a fatty liver, reducing the liver’s ability to filter.Women in particular must limit liquor consumption because they experience liver damage earlier than men, according to one study.

10) Lose Weight: 
Not only can liver toxicity lead to excess weight – excess weight can lead to liver problems, significantly increasing your risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Another weight related ailment, diabetes, may also increase the risk of liver diseases.NIH researchers found the incidence of chronic liver disease and cancer of the liver in diabetics was about twice that of patients without diabetes.

Published October 24, 2005

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