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Obesity and type 2 diabetes are on the rise. And both of these conditions are risk factors for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that is forecast to affect more than 100 million people by the year 2030.
This is bad news since your liver is arguably the hardest-working organ in your body. It performs numerous critical functions that keep your body healthy and free of toxins. It recycles red blood cells, regulates blood sugar levels and hormones, and stores vitamins and minerals.
That’s why the recent research I’m going to tell you about is so important, and why the researchers are already planning on pursuing further investigations.
It seems that a drink we already know to be an infection fighter and vision saver, and that offers protection from diabetes and cancer, can also dramatically reduce the detrimental effects of fatty liver disease.
And, if you exercise on top of that, the positive results are even more dramatic…
Green tea extract slashes liver fat in half
A recent Penn State study with mice may point the way to strategies that we can use to fight fatty liver disease.
In the study, mice were fed a high-fat diet for 16 weeks. Some were fed green tea while others exercised. Both of these groups ended up with half as much fat in their livers as a control group.
But in the third group of mice, the treatments were combined. In these mice that both consumed green tea and exercised, researchers found only a quarter of the lipid deposits in their livers compared to the control group.
In addition, the researchers found that the bodies of mice that consumed green tea were actually handling food differently.
Researchers measured the protein and fat content of the mouse feces and found that those who consumed green tea extract and exercised had higher fecal lipid and protein levels.
In other words, they excreted more fat, rather than having it build up in their livers. The researchers attribute this to the antioxidants in green tea and their interaction with digestive enzymes.
The next step in this line of research will be to find out whether there’s some sort of synergy between green tea and exercise. In other words, are the two working together in some specific way to reduce liver fat, or is this effect is just a matter of one plus one equals two?
How to keep your liver healthy
Because NAFLD usually doesn’t cause any symptoms, most people find out they have it when blood tests are done for some other reason, and a liver problem shows up. For example, if your liver looks unusual on an ultrasound, or if a liver enzyme test comes back as abnormal, NAFLD may be suspected, and further tests can be done.
In the meantime, there’s a lot you can do in terms of diet and lifestyle to keep your liver healthy. In addition to drinking green tea and making exercise a regular part of your day, follow these tips:
Limit high-carb foods. Dr. Scott Mumby suggests avoiding processed foods, white bread and anything packed with preservatives or refined sugars. A diet rich in carbohydrates overwhelms your liver as simple carbs are converted into sugars and fat.
Don’t overdo the alcohol. That’s not to say that the occasional after-dinner drink is a no-no. Just don’t make several drinks a night a habit. It can lead to the swelling and scarring of cirrhosis.
Watch the Tylenol. Acetaminophen can hurt your liver if you take too much. You may not realize how much you’re taking, either, since it’s not just in Tylenol pills but in cold medicines and pain formulas as well. Read your ingredient labels carefully.
Avoid industrial chemicals. Chemicals you may be exposed to on the job can cause liver injury. These include the dry cleaning solvent carbon tetrachloride, vinyl chloride, and the herbicide paraquat (also linked to Parkinson’s disease).
Drink coffee. If you happen to be a coffee drinker, not a tea drinker, there’s good news! Research shows that your drink of choice also protects the liver from disease.
Herbal cleansing. Milk thistle and other herbs, as well as a homemade “lemonade cleanse” can flush your liver of toxins.