January 23, 2013 By Steven E. Greer, MD
Thanks to a few medical doctors, most notably Robert Lustig of UCSF, it is becoming known that humans can develop fatty liver disease even if they do not consume alcohol. Certain foods are processed exclusively by the liver and have no other pathway than to be converted into fat and stored in lover cells. Sugar and trans-fats are the big villains. Also, overeating of other food will cause NAFLD, but not as quickly as fructose, trans-fats, and alcohol.
One can be normal weight and still have excessive fat around the abdominal organs and a fatty liver. This can lead to lack of energy, diabetes, cancer, and other illnesses.
Dr. Lustig was recently featured on CBS’s “60 Minutes” about the harm of fructose and how it has contributed to the obesity epidemic. I asked him some questions too.
Dr. Greer: When one eats more non-fructose calories than they expend, and thus add fat to fat cells, does the liver become fatty from that too, or is fatty liver disease just caused by alcohol and fructose? In other words, if I add 5 pounds from eating pasta and rice, is my liver going to look the same as if I were binging on alcohol and candy?
Dr. Lustig: Steve, because only 20% of a glucose load enters the liver, it takes WAY MORE glucose to overwhelm the liver’s capacity. In contrast, 100% of a fructose (which is table sugar or corn syrup) load enters the liver. Also, glucose (in starches such as pasta or potatoes) can go on to form glycogen, so the liver has a pop-off valve. But if you force it, can you do it? Yes. But it takes a lot of glucose for a long time to do it.
The four foodstuffs that are exclusively metabolized in the liver and don’t go to glycogen are:
2. Branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine)
Tip of the Week: A good way to eat less sugar and trans-fats is to eat vegetables. This relates to my other tip about juicing. Buy a blender and make the veggies go down more easily. You also have to cut out the sugary cakes and desserts. You won’t miss them. You can still have a sugary snack once a week. In addition to juicing, I also recommend this dietary change.