Foods That Damage the Liver: What To Avoid
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
The liver is a vital organ that helps filter the blood and store excess glucose.
Certain foods can damage the liver, especially if they are consumed in excessive amounts.
Taking a supplement that supports your liver cells, like fatty15, is a good option for supporting your liver health.
We know liver health is important, and as we age, we want to ensure we’re eating foods that support liver health. If you’ve gotten a bad report from your doctor and know you need to make some changes, you might be looking for ways to focus on your liver health through dietary changes.
Together, we’ll talk about foods that can damage the liver. We’ll also talk about what the liver does in the body and how you can support your liver health and reduce your risk of developing liver damage.
The liver has many functions, but for our purposes, we'll focus on three main elements of its functions.
Filtration. Your liver acts as your body’s filtration system, filtering your blood and removing toxins.
Fat breakdown. Bile is produced in the liver, which breaks down and digests fat.
Glycogen storage. When there is an excess of glucose in the blood, insulin carries it to the liver, where it is converted as glycogen and stored for future use when needed. When needed, glycogen is converted back into glucose and released into the bloodstream for cellular fuel.
The liver has many other jobs, including keeping our amino acids balanced and even storing some vitamins and minerals. However, when your liver health suffers, it’s generally due to an issue with one of the three functions above.
What Are Liver Problems?
Numerous problems can develop from an unhealthy liver. These include:
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This condition describes a liver that has too much excess fat storage in a person who drinks little to no alcohol. This common, chronic liver disease affects about ¼ of the population.
- Infections. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are all infections of the liver that can have a significant negative impact on your liver health. These infections can be spread from person to person through blood and contaminated water.
- Genetics. It’s possible to inherit an abnormal gene that can lead to liver damage. These cases are usually rare.
- Cirrhosis of the liver. This condition involves the buildup of scar tissue in the liver that damages its ability to function properly.
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease. Unlike NAFLD, this condition is directly associated with continual alcohol misuse that leads to the accumulation of fat in the liver.
- Liver fibrosis. This condition usually accompanies chronic liver illness. Liver fibrosis occurs when excess proteins accumulate in the liver. This can lead to cirrhosis and, eventually, liver failure.
Not everyone develops liver problems. Certain risk factors make you more likely to develop liver problems.
Risk Factors for Developing Liver Problems
Certain lifestyle habits make you more likely to develop liver problems. These include:
- Unhealthy alcohol consumption.Excessive alcohol use is directly associated with damaging how your liver works. Each time you drink alcohol, some of your liver cells die. Liver cells do regenerate, but over time, unhealthy alcohol use can lead to liver damage and liver disease.
- Being overweight.Obesity is related to unhealthy liver conditions. Not maintaining a healthy weight is associated with fatty liver disease.
- Having high cholesterol and/or type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance. These metabolic diseases are often associated with fatty liver disease.
Whether or not you’ve experienced liver issues, the good news is that with your doctor's approval, you can begin to make changes to support the health of your liver. That may include limiting foods that can negatively affect a healthy liver.
Foods That Damage the Liver
If you’re on a mission to strengthen your liver, you’ll want to steer clear of certain foods and beverages that science has linked to liver issues.
1. Fast Food
The American diet relies on fast food to help fuel our furnaces while we engage in overly busy lifestyles. While numerous food chains have stepped up their food preparation and ingredients to offer healthful choices, plenty of foods are available from the drive-thru window that aren’t benefiting your liver (or your waistline).
To make certain you’re choosing the best options, choose fast food chains focusing on fresh, whole ingredients with less processing. Fried foods (like french fries, fried chicken, and some burgers) may be havens of unhealthy fats and excess sodium that can be detrimental to your liver health.
2. Simple Carbohydrates
Refined sugar is sweet, but your liver converts excess sugar to fat. If you have too much sugar, you could end up with excess fat on your liver. Someone with unregulated blood sugar is at higher risk of developing these types of issues. Sugar can hide out in food because it goes by different names like high fructose corn syrup and cane sugar.
Instead, opt for complex carbohydrates (whole grain oats, whole wheat bread, fruit, and vegetables).
Soft drinks can hide excess calories that can lead to excess weight and the chance of storing excess fat in your liver. Simply swapping out your daily cola for water is an easy way to save calories, stay hydrated, and protect your liver health.
4. Red Meat
Studies support that a diet high in red meat and processed meat is associated with a three-fold increased risk of developing NAFLD. Instead, you can opt for leaner cuts of meat like chicken, pork, and fish.
Drinking alcohol is dangerous to your liver. If you’ve suffered from liver problems, talk to your healthcare provider about whether or not alcohol is safe for you to use. Alcohol is a known carcinogen, so if you drink, do so in moderation.
In addition to these foods, there’s the issue of what to do with dietary fat. If you have NAFLD or are trying to avoid it, you might have considered avoiding fat altogether, but science doesn’t support that as the best and most healthful option.
Dietary Fat and Your Liver
For decades, we’ve been told that all fat is bad, especially for our liver health. While we know that trans fats are bad, we now know that some fats are beneficial to our bodies. The omega-3 fatty acids are known to be “healthy” fats. These fats are polyunsaturated.
That leaves us with saturated fats. While your first reaction might be to avoid them, avoiding them completely isn’t the best course of action for your liver or your total body health.
Saturated Fats: What You Need To Know
Although we have been told that all saturated fats are bad for us, science now supports that that is not the case.
A new important class of fatty acids was recently discovered as being essential to maintaining our health and wellness. These fatty acids are called odd-chain saturated fatty acids, including one called pentadecanoic acid, orC15:0. This particular fatty acid has recently been identified as an essential fatty acid. This means our bodies don't make it, and we have to get it through our diets.
Science supports that higher levels of odd-chain saturated fatty acids are responsible for better heart health and liver health. There are now calls to action to update current dietary guidelines to differentiate between good and bad saturated fats.
What Can C15:0 Do?
C15:0 benefits your liver (and your entire body) because it improves the function and strength of your cells. Your cells are the foundation of your health, and keeping them healthy means you stay healthy, too.
In studies, C15:0 has been shown to actually reverse cellular aging, strengthen the cells, and boost cellular energy. Here’s how.
- Keeping cell membranes strong. The protective membranes surrounding our cells become weak and flimsy with age. C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates into cell membranes and strengthens them. This allows cells to retain their shape, which is essential for proper cellular function. In fact, C15:0 increases cellular strength by 80%.
- Clearing damaged cells. If you’ve spent any time in biohacking, you’re probably familiar with cellular senescence. This term refers to cells that have lost their function but haven’t died, like zombies. They create inflammation in the body that can lead to disease. C15:0 helps clear them by activating a cellular clean-up system (AMPK).
- Regulating inflammatory response. Proinflammatory cytokines are associated with aging. C15:0 effectively calms and lowers these molecules in the body.
- Restoring energy levels. Aging cells have mitochondria that don’t function as well as they used to. These batteries in our cells lose their charge, resulting in less cellular function. C15:0 restores mitochondrial function and increases energy output by 45%. In studies, C15:0 increased ATP (cellular energy) by 350%.
- Helping maintain homeostasis. By supporting homeostatic functions like glucose uptake, immunity, and even mood and appetite, C15:0 helps restore balance to functions in your body that might seem off-kilter.
Research supports that odd-chain saturated fatty acids, like C15:0, can be beneficial and essential to our bodies. That leaves the question of where to get them.
How To Get C15:0 in Your Diet
C15:0 is primarily found in trace levels in whole-fat dairy products. However, simply increasing your intake of whole-fat dairy products comes with extra calories, sugars, and high levels of the "bad" even-chain saturated fats.
A solution? Fatty15.
Fatty15 is the first and only supplement born of scientific research that contains just one ingredient, FA15™, the pure, vegan-friendly, sustainably-produced, and award-winning version of C15:0.
Why a Supplement Works
There are a few reasons why taking a supplement to obtain this essential fatty acid may be beneficial.
First, it's made ready to absorb. In milk (and other foods), C15:0 is attached to branches of lipids called triacylglycerides, aka triglycerides. That means our gut has to use digestive enzymes to break down these triacylglycerides to release C15:0 as a free fatty acid.
Once C15:0 is released, it is ready to be absorbed. These multiple steps can make our absorption of C15:0 from foods less efficient. In contrast, FA15™ in fatty15 is our proprietary pure, powder C15:0 ingredient already in free fatty acid form. Less work for the gut, more good C15:0 for our bodies.
In addition, obtaining C15:0 from dairy involves, well, cows. If you’d like to skip the cows (and the calories), then fatty15 is the solution you need.
Fatty15: The Liver Loving Fatty Acid
Your liver is one of your most important organs, and keeping it healthy requires attention to your lifestyle and diet. Avoiding certain foods can help you reduce your risk of developing liver-related issues and also help keep your liver healthy.
By taking fatty15 once a day, you can give your liver cells (and the cells all over your body) the support they need and keep them healthy as they age. Protecting your cellular health is a good step toward protecting your liver health.
Only fatty15 gives you access to the essential C15:0 fatty acid you need without any additional ingredients that might not benefit your liver or health. Your liver is vital; give it the vital fatty acid it needs. Fatty15 is your C15:0 solution.
Broader and safer clinically-relevant activities of pentadecanoic acid compared to omega-3: Evaluation of an emerging essential fatty acid across twelve primary human cell-based disease systems | PLOS ONE
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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