A friend recently asked me to look over a list of supplements suggested as “interventions” for a diagnosis of NAFLD (Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). I’ve been helping her with concerns about appropriate prophylaxes for other health issues – Insulin Resistance (IR) and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) – so she sent me a link from Life Extension (LE), a supplement seller recommended by her doctor. I agreed to look it over and get back to her.
Life Extension’s “suggestions” include eight (8) supplements, all but one of which – a drug, metformin – they sell. All “have been shown to boost liver health and help manage NAFLD,” and “prevent progression to the more deadly NASH, which is a precursor of liver failure.” Pretty scary stuff! How many of these supplements should I buy? Then, at the bottom of the page, I saw that the tab on the link my friend sent was pg. 2. I clicked on pg. 1.
“Roughly one-third of the American population suffers from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD. NAFLD can go undetected for years and may eventually progress to inflammation and scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and, in some cases, full-blown liver failure. A formerly rare condition, its rapid emergence has been linked to skyrocketing rates of metabolic syndrome and diabesity, the term many experts use for co-occurring diabetes and obesity.
My friend is not obese, but her IR and abnormal lipid profile puts her squarely in the Metabolic Syndrome “X.”
“While poor dietary choices are often to blame, cutting-edge research suggests that hidden genetic factors may also play a role, and some people do not metabolize polyunsaturated fats properly, resulting in fatty deposits in the liver.”
Life Extension’s “fix,” of course, is predictable: They offer to sell you some supplements.
“As mainstream medicine continues to struggle in the search for drugs to manage this widespread condition, emerging scientific evidence has shed light on effective natural interventions that may halt or even reverse its progress.”
But wait, these “interventions” are just surrogates for drugs, and the best “treatment” for a condition that was caused by poor dietary choices and polyunsaturated fats is to make good dietary choices and eat healthy fats.
While you can’t change your genes, you can change the way they “express” themselves, even after being exposed to a barrage of the poor dietary choices advocated by our government going on 50 years now!
And, Life Extension has identified the likely causes of NAFLD: poor dietary choices and polyunsaturated fats.
What are those “poor dietary choices”? Life Extension hones in on the main one, a simple sugar, fructose. Fructose is half of every (cane) sugar molecule, and it is shunted directly to the liver to be metabolized. If the liver is already full of stored carbs (glycogen), it makes, via de novo lipogenesis, new fat molecules in the liver.
“Of course, what we eat is as important as the calories it contains. One of the major bad actors in today’s world is fructose, found in high quantities in high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose promotes formation of new fat molecules in the liver, blocks breakdown of existing fats, stimulates free radical production, and promotes insulin resistance. Increasing numbers of studies are linking increased fructose consumption with NAFLD, and even with its deadlier consequence, NASH. Patients with NAFLD consume 2-3 times as much fructose as do control patients, even corrected for body weight.”
The other dietary choice LE cites as a probable cause of NAFLD is “polyunsaturated fats,” or PUFAs, found in highly processed vegetable oils (canola, corn and soy bean oil, among many others). These are unnatural food oils that did not exist before technology was developed to extract them. I have written about the harm PUFAs do many times, but Life Extension’s citation was refreshing to see because liquid fats are still recommended to us to by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020)!
A small amount of PUFAs are “essential,” meaning the body can’t make them; however, the ratio of the “essential” ones (Omega 6s and Omega 3s) is important. Historically this has been 2:1 to 4:1. With the proliferation of “industrial” food oils over the last half century, and the USDA’s advocacy of them (and Cargill’s and ADM’s production and marketing of them), the ratio for most Americans is now 20:1 to 30:1.
You can’t fix this ratio by just supplementing the denominator with fish oil. You need to cut back dramatically on the numerator: on all fried foods and processed foods, like commercial baked goods, containing PUFA’s.Replace PUFAs with monounsaturated fats (e.g., from olive oil and avocados) and saturated fats, such as coconut oil and grass-fed butter, lamb and beef, full-fat dairy and wild-caught fin and shellfish. All Real Foods!