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The 1 BIG MISTAKE That Could be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss

When your body is toxic and fat, you’ll feel bad. Your functioning and health will suffer. Your unclean cells, full of environmental pollutants and even toxins that your own body creates, won’t perform up to speed, and it might leave you feeling tired, achy, and mentally foggy.

The liver and weight loss

What many people may not know, is that the liver is intimately involved in weight loss.

Firstly, dysfunctional or diseased livers are associated with increased abdominal fat [9] [10]. A healthy liver is deeply involved in metabolizing fat and breaking down fat so that it can be used as energy [11]. So if your liver isn’t working properly, fat can actually accumulate not only in the liver (fatty liver disease), but in the rest of your body because it is not being broken down as easily.

This is why it is commonly thought that the increased abdominal fat and “beer belly” that middle-aged (and even younger people) develop is at least in part due to sluggish livers.

Symptoms of a sluggish or unhealthy liver might include:

The importance of the liver for vibrant health

Your liver is critical for keeping your body in balance. One of its most important functions is cleansing. A healthy liver is supposed to cleanse toxicants (toxic substances in food, water and air) that you intake as well as toxins or unneeded substances that your own body creates. For instance, the liver flushes out excess hormones like estrogen and a vast array of unneeded metabolites produced by normal living.

Many medical textbooks put the liver’s known functions in the human body at around 500! Just a few examples of things that the liver does - stores important nutrients for months or years, manages blood sugar, synthesizes needed proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, is involved in immune function, and makes critical components of the blood.

Dietary steps to keep your liver healthy

Foods that quickly raise your blood sugar like processed carbohydrates (white bread, some pastas, refined grains, soft drinks, etc.) and animal products like meat and dairy items that are high in saturated fat have been shown to harm liver function [12].

So your liver benefits from a diet that is mostly whole plants foods - veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Some people still find it hard to lose weight after improving their diet. Maybe their livers need extra boosts.

Diet is the foundational step in addressing liver function and making sure that this all-important organ is capable of cleaning your body and keeping you lean and a fat burning machine!

Some foods and herbs specifically support liver health and aid in the cleansing of this organ. The list below identifies these dietary allies and gives explanations of how or how much they might improve liver function.

Supporting Your Liver: Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid

1. Don’t drink Soft drinks

Researchers have called the extremely high levels of fructose in many soft drinks a “weapon of mass destruction” because it is so harmful to the liver (1).

Fructose can be found in much smaller amounts in whole plant foods like fruit but this type of fructose ingestion is healthy because of the lesser amounts and the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber the fructose is packaged with in unprocessed foods.

Fructose from in processed soft drinks is too much for the liver to handle and results in liver damage in the form of inflammation and fatty deposits (1). This unnaturally high amount of fructose consumption is also associated with obesity and diabetes (1). Many Americans consume huge amounts of fructose in the form of soft drinks and researchers warn that this is dangerous because fructose is a “key player” in the development of liver disease [2].

If you’re looking for something to damage your liver and make you gain weight, soft drinks might be just what you’re looking for! Chances are you’re not looking to do that though. So stay away from these beverages and get all the fructose you need from fruits and veggies.

2. Eat Broccoli

Broccoli is famous for aiding liver health. It is one of the most powerful liver cleansing foods you can eat. This is because it activates two detoxification pathways in the liver: the phase II enzymes and conjugase enzymes (3)(4).

Phase II detoxification enzymes powerfully and effectively detoxify harmful substances from the liver. If phase II enzymes are not activated, the liver uses phase I enzymes, which are not as effective as phase II enzymes and can actually make some toxins more damaging to the body than they would have been in the absence of detoxification enzymes.

Broccoli can also stimulate and recycle the other antioxidants in your body, bolstering your protective capabilities.

Because of these effects, broccoli is referred to as a “bifunctional” detoxifying agent because of the fact that it activates these two powerful detoxifying pathways.

3. Enjoy Turmeric

Turmeric, and its main active component curcumin, have demonstrated antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and modulates enzymes in the body that promote these healthy effects [5].

In a placebo-controlled human trial, in 2016, curcumin (in turmeric) was successful in causing a substantial improvement in liver health. There was a “78.9% improvement”  versus a “27.5% improvement in the placebo group” in reducing fat accumulation in the liver [6]. Fat accumulation is a sign of an unhealthy diseased liver. Importantly, this study also demonstrated that curcumin caused significant reductions in body mass index, cholesterol, and triglycerides [6]. So curcumin might help with weight loss and liver function.

4. Drink Organic Green Tea

Similarly to cruciferous vegetables, green tea has consistently been shown in research to activate phase II detoxification enzymes that protect and clean the liver [7].

A systematic review of green tea confirmed that drinking green tea has a protective effect on the liver and helps fight liver diseases {8]. The positive effects of green tea were seen in studies in the West and in China [8]. 

Two stipulations to consider though.

Please drink certified organic green tea instead of conventional green tea and don’t bother with green tea extracts (just drink bagged green tea). Although extremely rare, there have been cases of green tea, that is tainted with toxic pesticides, causing hepatitis (inflammation of the liver - in other words, a liver disease) [13]. You might as well buy tea that has much lower or no amounts of synthetic chemicals on it. Otherwise, it’s possible that you could be irritating your liver rather than cleansing it. Also, green tea extracts can actually put livers at risk and damage them if too much is taken [14]. It’s very hard to drink too much bagged green tea on the other hand - drinking it will nourish your liver.

5. Eat Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Fish, Olive Oil, Avocado, Leafy Greens etc.)

Long-chain polyunsaturated fats are found in seafood and healthy plant foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds and olives and avocados [15]. These fats have been shown to support liver health. The mediterranean diet has been associated with healthier livers and the omega 3 fat content of these diets is thought to be responsible for much of this association [15].

Diets low in omega 3 fats may increase liver inflammation and more fat deposits in the liver [15]. Biopsies of livers have shown that lower amounts of omega 3 fats causes more severe inflammation [15]. And in children that have liver disease, it was found that few of them consumed recommended amounts of omega 3s [15].

Omega 3s are known to be integral in preventing excessive inflammation in the body and there are many mechanisms by which they exert their anti-inflammatory effects [16]. For instance, omega 3s increase anti-inflammatory signals in the body and generate resolvins, which are compounds that end inflammation once it has occurred [16].  

6.  Restrict Bacon

Meats that are cooked at high temperatures and in the absence of moisture, like barbequed, roasted, and baked meats, have large amounts of toxic advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in them. Bacon has one of the highest contents of AGEs.

These AGEs cause inflammation in your body, can directly damage tissues when they are absorbed through the gut [17]. AGEs are also linked by research to liver disease, cause inflammation in liver cells, and have to be processed by the liver [17].

In the livers of mice, AGEs cause inflammation and are involved in the progression of liver disease [18]. And AGEs have been confirmed to increase markers of liver damage in another study [19]. AGEs are tied to numerous liver diseases, because of the oxidative stress they cause and can even play a role in liver cancer [20].

Typically, meats that are cooked at lower temperatures in water or marinade, have much less AGEs. Poaching or boiling meat is a much healthier choice for your liver than barbecuing.

7. Eat Onions

Onions protect your liver. In rats poisoned with the toxic metal cadmium, onion consumption prevented an array of biomarkers (or indications) of liver stress [21]. Researchers noted that onion might have increased the antioxidant defenses of the livers [21].

Consumption of onion and garlic together reduced the severity of liver disease, reduced oxidative stress and damage to liver cells in rats [22].

The antioxidant effects of onion might be powerful in fighting liver disease. Onions contain quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant, and have been shown to increase the antioxidant capacity or the ability to fight damaging oxidative stress [23].

8. Drink or Eat Lemon Juice/Lemon Water

Squeeze some lemon juice on your food for a nice tangy taste or drink water with lemon juice in it to nourish your liver and even help with weight loss.

The vitamin C content contributes to the liver protective effect of lemons. Deficiency of vitamin C causes all sorts of abnormalities and signs of disease in liver tissue [24]. Besides being a crucial antioxidant, vitamin C plays many roles in the body and protecting the liver is one of them.

Citric acid, found in lemons, prevents liver damage in mice and decreased inflammation throughout the body [26]. Another lemon compound, eriocitrin, prevented oxidative damage in rat livers [27].

Also, lemons can increase fat burning, not only throughout fat tissue but in livers as well [25]. Antioxidants in lemons “suppress obesity” [25]. Keep your liver healthy and lose weight!

9. Eat Dandelion

This leafy green has been known in the alternative health community for enhancing liver health. It is sometimes considered a weed but is powerful medicinally and can be incorporated into food for a nice tinge of bitterness.

Science has started to acknowledge that dandelion is good for your liver. It protects against alcohol-induced liver damage and increases the antioxidant defenses of the liver [28]. Dandelion extract raises several types of antioxidants in the livers of mice (glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, and glutathione) [28].

10. Eat Schisandra Fruit

This fruit has been used since ancient times in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of disorders and is known have having a unique variety of combined flavors when eaten such as sweet, sour, and bitter.

Schisandra is great for the liver. In humans, consumption of the fruit extract clearly showed that fatty liver disease was improved, liver antioxidant defenses increased, and inflammatory markers also decreased [29]. Schisandra even promotes liver regeneration, as it stimulates the growth of liver cells [30]. Evidently, it activates “liver regeneration-related genes”  and can help liver repair after injury [30]

The fruit has also been evidenced to prevent alcohol-induced fatty liver disease [31].

11. Walnuts

Walnuts have been specifically shown to benefit liver health in numerous studies. Researchers cite the omega 3 fats in walnuts as responsible its liver benefits [32]. In order to build healthy cell membranes, the liver prefers healthy fats like those in walnuts [32]. With healthier cell membranes, liver will function more optimally. Omega 3 fats also decrease the inappropriate buildup of fats in the liver that signals liver disease [32].

In rats, walnuts do just that - they fight fatty liver disease and even change the expression of genes in the liver that relate to fatty deposition [32]. In mice, walnuts reduce the amount of fat accumulation in the liver and reduced inflammatory gene expression [33].

An important review on the role of diet in liver disease notes that nuts in general are among the most “promising” foods for promoting liver health [34]. And out of all nuts, walnuts contain the highest amount of healthy fats and antioxidants, so they are especially helpful in fighting liver disease [34].

Footnotes:

  1. Carbohydrate intake and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: fructose as a weapon of mass destruction. Metin Basaranoglu, Gokcen Basaranoglu, and Elisabetta Bugianesi. Hepatobiliary Surg Nutr. 2015 Apr; 4(2): 109–116.
  2. Fructose as a key player in the development of fatty liver disease. Basaranoglu M1, Basaranoglu G, Sabuncu T, Sentürk H. World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Feb 28;19(8):1166-1172.
  3. Bland, J. (2015). The disease delusion: conquering the causes of chronic illness for a healthier, longer, and happier life. New York: HarperWave, an imprint of HarperCollins.
  4. Induction of Phase 2 Antioxidant Enzymes by Broccoli Sulforaphane: Perspectives in Maintaining the Antioxidant Activity of Vitamins A, C, and E. Sekhar Boddupalli, Jonathan R. Mein, Shantala Lakkanna, and Don R. James. Front Genet. 2012; 3: 7.
  5. The clinical potential of influencing Nrf2 signaling in degenerative and immunological disorders. Bifeng Gao, An Doan, and Brooks M Hybertson. Clin Pharmacol. 2014; 6: 19–34.
  6. Treatment of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease with Curcumin: A Randomized Placebo-controlled Trial. Rahmani S, Asgary S, Askari G, Keshvari M, Hatamipour M, Feizi A, Sahebkar A. Phytother Res. 2016 Sep;30(9):1540-1548
  7. Green tea catechin, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG): mechanisms, perspectives and clinical applications. Brahma N. Singh, Sharmila Shankar, and Rakesh K. Srivastava. Biochem Pharmacol. 2011 Dec 15; 82(12): 1807–1821.
  8. Green tea consumption and liver disease: a systematic review. Jin X, Zheng RH, Li YM. Liver Int. 2008 Aug;28(7):990-996.
  9. Correlation of fatty liver and abdominal fat distribution using a simple fat computed tomography protocol. Seonah Jang, Chang Hee Lee, Kyung Mook Choi, Jongmee Lee, Jae Woong Choi, Kyeong Ah Kim, and Cheol Min Park. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Jul 28; 17(28): 3335–3341.
  10. Correlation of abdominal fat accumulation and liver steatosis: importance of ultrasonographic and anthropometric measurements. Sabir N, Sermez Y, Kazil S, Zencir M. Eur J Ultrasound. 2001 Dec;14(2-3):121-128.
  11. How does the liver work? Menche N. (ed.) Biologie Anatomie Physiologie. Munich: Urban & Fischer/ Elsevier; 2012.
  12. Dietary approach in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Silvia Marinho Ferolla, Luciana Costa Silva, Maria de Lourdes Abreu Ferrari, Aloísio Sales da Cunha, Flaviano dos Santos Martins, Cláudia Alves Couto, and Teresa Cristina Abreu Ferrari. World J Hepatol. 2015 Oct 28; 7(24): 2522–2534.
  13. Teen Girl Develops Hepatitis After Drinking Green Tea Bought Online. Gillian Mohney. Published online at abcnews. Sept 25, 2015
  14. Green tea extract: a potential cause of acute liver failure. Patel SS1, Beer S, Kearney DL, Phillips G, Carter BA.World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Aug 21;19(31):5174-5177.
  15. Nutrition, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and the microbiome: recent progress in the field. Miriam B. Vos. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2014 Feb; 25(1): 61–66.
  16. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory processes: nutrition or pharmacology? Calder PC. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Mar;75(3):645-662.
  17. Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and their involvement in liver disease. Hyogo H, Yamagishi S. Curr Pharm Des. 2008;14(10):969-972.
  18. Effect of dietary advanced glycation end products on mouse liver. Patel R, Baker SS, Liu W, Desai S, Alkhouri R, Kozielski R, Mastrandrea L, Sarfraz A, Cai W, Vlassara H, Patel MS, Baker RD, Zhu L. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35143.
  19. Dietary advanced glycation end-products aggravate non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Christopher Leung, Chandana B Herath, Zhiyuan Jia, Sof Andrikopoulos, Bronwyn E Brown, Michael J Davies, Leni R Rivera, John B Furness, Josephine M Forbes, and Peter W Angus
  20. Role of receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) in liver disease. Sho-ichi Yamagishi and Takanori Matsui. Eur J Med Res. 2015; 20(1): 15.
  21. Hepatoprotective potentials of onion and garlic extracts on cadmium-induced oxidative damage in rats. Obioha UE, Suru SM, Ola-Mudathir KF, Faremi TY. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2009 Summer;129(1-3):143-156
  22. Pharmacological and antioxidant actions of garlic and.or onion in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in rats. El-Din SH, Sabra AN, Hammam OA, Ebeid FA, El-Lakkany NM. J Egypt Soc Parasitol. 2014 Aug;44(2):295-308.
  23. Onion flesh and onion peel enhance antioxidant status in aged rats. Park J, Kim J, Kim MK. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2007 Feb;53(1):21-29.
  24. Effect of vitamin C deficiency and excess on the liver: a histopathological and biochemical study in guinea pigs fed normal or high cholesterol diet. Sharma P, Pramod J, Sharma PK, Sapra M, Manorma, Kothari LK. Indian J Pathol Microbiol. 1990 Oct;33(4):307-313.
  25. Lemon Polyphenols Suppress Diet-induced Obesity by Up-Regulation of mRNA Levels of the Enzymes Involved in β-Oxidation in Mouse White Adipose Tissue. Yoshiko Fukuchi, Masanori Hiramitsu, Miki Okada, Sanae Hayashi, Yuka Nabeno, Toshihiko Osawa,3 and Michitaka Naito. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2008 Nov; 43(3): 201–209.
  26. Citric Acid Effects on Brain and Liver Oxidative Stress in Lipopolysaccharide-Treated Mice. Omar M.E. Abdel-Salam, Eman R. Youness, Nadia A. Mohammed, Safaa M. Youssef Morsy, Enayat A. Omara, and Amany A. Sleem. J Med Food. 2014 May 1; 17(5): 588–598.
  27. Lemon flavonoid, eriocitrin, suppresses exercise-induced oxidative damage in rat liver. Minato K, Miyake Y, Fukumoto S, Yamamoto K, Kato Y, Shimomura Y, Osawa T. Life Sci. 2003 Feb 21;72(14):1609-1616.
  28. In vitro and in vivo hepatoprotective effects of the aqueous extract from Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) root against alcohol-induced oxidative stress. You Y, Yoo S, Yoon HG, Park J, Lee YH, Kim S, Oh KT, Lee J, Cho HY, Jun W. Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Jun;48(6):1632-1637.
  29. Improvement of liver function in humans using a mixture of schisandra fruit extract and sesamin. Chiu HF, Chen TY, Tzeng YT, Wang CK. Phytother Res. 2013 Mar;27(3):368-373.
  30. Schisandra sphenanthera Extract Facilitates Liver Regeneration after Partial Hepatectomy in Mice. Li X, Fan X, Li D, Zeng X, Zeng H, Wang Y, Zhou Y, Chen Y, Huang M, Bi H. Drug Metab Dispos. 2016 May;44(5):647-652.
  31. Schisandra chinensis Prevents Alcohol-Induced Fatty Liver Disease in Rats. Hyoung Joon Park, Soo-Jung Lee, Yuno Song, Sun-Hee Jang, Yeoung-Gyu Ko, Suk Nam Kang, Byung Yeoup Chung, Hong-Duck Kim, Gon-Sup Kim, and Jae-Hyeon Cho. J Med Food. 2014 Jan 1; 17(1): 103–110.
  32. Dietary walnut oil modulates liver steatosis in the obese Zucker rat. Anja Fink, Corinna E. Rüfer, Julie Le Grandois, Alexander Roth, Dalal Aoude-Werner, Eric Marchioni, Achim Bub, and Stephan W. Barth. Eur J Nutr. 2014; 53(2): 645–660.
  33. Dietary walnut reduces hepatic triglyceride content in high-fat-fed mice via modulation of hepatic fatty acid metabolism and adipose tissue inflammation. Choi Y, Abdelmegeed MA, Akbar M, Song BJ. J Nutr Biochem. 2016 Apr;30:116-125.
  34. Oily fish, coffee and walnuts: Dietary treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Vikas Gupta, Xian-Jun Mah, Maria Carmela Garcia, Christina Antonypillai, and David van der Poorten. World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Oct 7; 21(37): 10621–10635.