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Your liver is arguably the hardest-working organ in your body. It’s also one of the most easily abused. And that abuse can be deadly.
Here’s how you can inadvertently put yourself on the fast track to liver cancer, and not even know it.
Eat more calories than your body needs. Go heavy on the fats and sugars. Develop elevated blood sugar, or even type 2 diabetes. Don’t exercise. Become obese.
Your liver will store that excess caloric energy in the form of fat. This condition is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
You’ve now joined 30 percent of the world’s population. According to Michelangelo Foti, Professor and Director of the Department of Cell Physiology and Metabolism at the University of Geneva, NAFLD “will very quickly become a major public health problem.”
But it doesn’t stop there.
A fatty liver creates a welcoming environment for hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer. It kills more than 700,00 people each year worldwide. And you usually don’t even know you have it until it’s too late.
But recent research could change all that.
A protein holds the key to treatment
Researchers at the University of Geneva in Switzerland have found that proteins in the blood, and one protein, in particular, could very well be the key to early detection and diagnosis of liver cancer.
“To date, studies have focused mainly on genetic mutations associated with liver cancer, but this has not led to effective treatments,” says Michelangelo Foti.
But the Swiss researchers discovered that blood proteins undergo changes in the presence of excess fat in the liver.
One protein, in particular, known as of S100A11, undergoes particularly significant changes, or “deregulation,” in the presence of fatty liver disease, changes that have nothing to do with genetics.
“We first discovered that S100A11 promotes inflammation and build-up of fibrous tissue in the liver,” explains Cyril Sobolewski, a researcher at the Department of Cell Physiology and Metabolism and first author of the Swiss study. “Additional tests showed that the more S100A11 was expressed, the greater the severity of the cancer.”
A simple blood test could prevent liver cancer
Given these findings, the Swiss researchers are hopeful that liver cancer, the silent killer, can be exposed and treated much sooner and much more effectively.
The presence of S100A11 in the blood of persons with NAFLD would mean that a simple blood test could predict the likely development of liver cancer.
In addition, S100A11 could become a target for preventing the cancer from developing.
“The next step would be to generate specific antibodies able to neutralize the protein and prevent its carcinogenic effect,” says Cyril Sobolewski.
This approach, known as immunotherapy, has already been used successfully with cancer patients.
Foods that treat a fatty liver
The moral of the story: take good care of that hard-working liver of yours!
The good news is that there are plenty of foods to eat, and some to avoid, that will help you do just that.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with a fatty liver, here are some foods you’ll want to add to your diet right away:
- Coffee, to lower abnormal liver enzymes.
- Leafy greens, to reduce fat buildup and promote a healthy weight
- Tofu. It’s a low-fat, high-protein food that research has found may reduce fat buildup in the liver.
- Fish. Salmon, sardines, tuna, and trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids (so are walnuts if you’re not a fish oil fan). Omega-3s can improve liver fat levels and reduce inflammation.
- Oatmeal. It gives you energy, and the fiber content fills you up and can help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Avocados. Besides being high in healthy fats, research suggests that avocados contain chemicals that may slow liver damage.
- Low-fat milk and dairy products. The whey protein in dairy may protect liver damage from advancing further.
- Sunflower seeds. Vitamin E is also a liver protector.
- Green tea. Here is some timely research on green tea and how it can save your liver.
And Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby gives you a summary of the triggers and symptoms of NAFLD, along with preventive steps you can take right now.
Editor’s note: As you’ve just read, food can be medicine — some are even potent cancer fighters! You can discover even more — including the best vitamins, minerals, herbs and supplements, as well as little-known therapies allowed in other countries but denied to you by American mainstream medicine — in one comprehensive cancer guide, Surviving Cancer! To get your copy today — plus 3 FREE reports — click here!
- From obesity to liver cancer: Can we prevent the worst? — EurekAlert
- Liver – fatty liver disease — Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia
- What is NASH? (Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis) — NASH Education Program
- 12 Foods to Help Fatty Liver Reversal — Healthline
- Avocados Contain Potent Liver Protectants — American Chemical Society