Thursday, August 12, 2010

Death by Sugar

This video of UCSF physician and professor Robert Lustig perfectly explains the root of the weight problem in our society. I came across this just after writing my last post about fructose and liver disease. It is so important that we wake up and start looking at what is in our food supply. Parents are unwittingly setting up their kids for a life of health problems. I also have the video viewable in the right column below.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fatty Liver part 2

In my last post I discussed the issues surrounding fatty liver disease. I'd like to delve a little deeper into that discussion and explain how a common ingredient in our food supply is wreaking havoc on our health.

As I mentioned previously, the main cause of fatty liver disease is a diet high in refined carbs and sugar. While this is true, I neglected to mention probably the biggest culprit, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Fructose is a sugar molecule found naturally in... fruit. It was widely promoted as a diabetic and blood sugar friendly sweetener because it didn't raise blood sugar as much as sucrose. Unfortunately this has been bad advice and the food industry has done us all a disservice by loading up the food supply with this insidious substance.

Fructose and especially high-fructose corn syrup is especially deft at raising blood triglyceride levels. This is fat in the blood. Our cells run primarily on glucose. Fructose must be converted to be used as energy in the body. This conversion happens in the liver and as you might imagine requires a host of micronutrients. Fructose is most easily converted to fat. We can burn fat for energy, but with a diet already plentiful in carbohydrate and glucose there is little need to utilize fat or fructose for energy. Therefore the body is constantly making fat from the all the ingested fructose. The consequences are weighty... literally!

High-fructose corn syrup is perhaps the main contributer to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity, and certainly contributes to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The cluster of symptoms known as metabolic syndrome is therefore also closely associated with the high refined sugar/carb diet. Metabolic syndrome or syndrome x is the combination of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol (LDL), and excess abdominal fat. Fructose promotes weight gain even more by suppressing our satiety mechanisms. It literally decreases the signaling in the brain to tell you you've had enough to eat.

It's been my observation that many of us underestimate our intake of sugar. I've had many patients tell me they don't use sugar. In reality they are consuming a large amount, including high-fructose corn syrup. Why the oversight? To cut you some slack, sugar is easily hidden throughout the food supply, at least to those who don't read ingredient labels. Sugar or HFCS is added to everything from yogurt to bread. It's in your spaghetti sauce and whole grain cereals. Even things like apple sauce or MacDonald's "real fruit" smoothies have added sugar. A common ploy is to use concentrated fruit juice, which of course is sugar.

So what about fruit? It has sugar and depending on type can have a fair amount of fructose. Here is the difference between man-made adulterated foods and naturally grown foods on God's green Earth. Sugar in fresh fruit is in a matrix of enzymes and nutrients. God has place within the apple all the co-factors for our bodies to extract the energy and nutrition. Any alteration leads to degradation in nutrient quality. While a little fresh apple juice is fine, though I always recommend diluting all juice with 50% water, sugar without the fiber can cause problems.

If, like most of us, you've had years of processed and sugar-laden foods, you'd do well to do some serious liver restoration. I recommend a 21-day Purification program (see the home page of my web site or read here) to jump start your body back to good health.

Sugar is one of the main issues affecting liver health, but I haven't even discussed the toxic load we all encounter from prescription and OTC medications, toxins in our food, air, and water, and normal metabolic burdens our bodies face every day. If you feel like your "health balance" has tipped in the wrong direction, now is the time to take action to be healthier. Don't put it off.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

vitamin E treatment improves liver damage in fatty liver disease

To quote a recent study, "Vitamin E treatment is associated with an improvement in the histologic grade of inflammation in NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease)."

The chief of liver diseases at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City stated, "I think these results should resurrect our efforts to use antioxidants and, more important, to develop very potent antioxidants."

NAFLD is the most common liver disease among adolescents in the United States.
NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis) is the third most common cause of chronic liver disease in adults in the United States (after hepatitis C and alcohol). It is now probably the leading reason for mild elevations of transaminases (ALT and AST "liver enzymes" or LFTs on blood tests).

I found this study interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it classically depicts how conventional medicine is reluctant to disclose the cause(s) of some diseases for which there is good evidence of cause. It's becoming obvious there is major influence from drug companies on how research is conducted and how doctors practice medicine. The mainstream drug-medical model extenuates "causes" while accentuating drug treatments. Let's hope common sense becomes mainstream.

In the case of NAFLD/NASH though there can be predispositions that put a person at higher risk, it is clear that these disease are ushered in by a lifestyle of excess, especially an excess of processed foods.

We can trace the problem to an intake of too much refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, rice, etc.) and too little micro-nutrients and fiber. What happens when you overfill the gas tank in your car? It overflows; thankfully there is an auto-shut off. Too bad there isn't one for junk food. Our liver takes the excess sugar out of the blood and converts it to fat. That fat gets shuttled all around the body to fat cells; our abdomen, breasts, buttocks, thighs, and the back of your arms. Some people can do this efficiently enough to keep the fat from congesting the liver, say the person who's ever expanding. In some people, the fat begins to accumulate in the liver and the toxic gunk begins to cause inflammation and damage.

Often because a diet high in refined calories is low in essential micro-nutrients, the liver lacks the co-factors to process the fat, inactivate free-radicals and detoxify. So where does the vitamin E come in?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant. It protects lipids (fats) from oxidative or free-radical damage. This can translate into protecting our liver cells from the inflammatory assault from excess oxidized and damaged fats. Again these are being created from an excess of calories plus an intake of the typical fats in modern cuisine (trans-fats, fried foods, processed oils).

So how do you prevent and treat fatty liver? While vitamin E used like a drug can help, to prevent and cure you need to eat a diet rich in the naturally occurring vitamin E complex, while avoiding the sugar-drug habit. As other studies have shown, taking vitamin E in an isolated form can lead to worse outcomes. It can deplete the body of other micro-nutrients. This is the reason that food created by God is best, along with the therapeutic food concentrates created by ingenious individuals like Royal Lee.

Wonder if you're at risk? Have elevated liver enzymes and your doctor just scratches his head? Every adult should have regular screening blood work and if your doctor doesn't know what to do, give me a call....