Eating Habits to Avoid if You Don't Want Liver Damage, Say Experts
More than 4.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with chronic liver disease, and the condition is associated with over 44,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. It's not just a genetic predisposition to liver health issues or bad luck that causes this chronic ailment, however. In many cases, what you eat and drink could be causing liver damage over time.
If you want to keep this vital organ healthy and avoid serious illness, read on to discover which of your eating habits could be contributing to liver damage, according to experts. And if you want to improve your wellbeing, start by trying The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Eating sugary foods
If dessert is part of your daily routine, you may find your liver health flagging over time.
Among the biggest risk factors for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is a "high intake of simple sugars," says IdealFit partner dietitian nutritionist Andrea Grange, RD. "Simple carbohydrates, especially fructose, have been linked to NAFLD," she explains. Beware of the worst drinks and foods highest in sugar such as soda, ice cream, cookies, condiments, juice beverages, and sports drinks.
Drinking soda isn't just bad for your waistline—it can cause serious damage to your liver, too.
"Soft drinks and sodas often contain high levels of the sweetener high fructose corn syrup. Unlike glucose which can be used for energy, fructose has to first be processed by the liver before it can be used by the body," explains Kylie Ivanir, MS, RD, founder of Within Nutrition.
"When excess fructose reaches the liver, it is used to create fat. Over time, this can result in too much fat being stored in the liver cells, which can result in liver inflammation and damage," Ivanir explains.
Eating a high-fat diet
That high-fat meal plan you've been adhering to may help you shed a few pounds, but that weight loss may be coming at the expense of your liver health.
"Low-carb, high-fat diets can be damaging to the liver, among other organs required to filter and process nutrients," says Trista Best, MS, RD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements.
"High-fat diets can create a type of overload where excess fat may be deposited into the liver rather than filtered out." Over time, Best says, this may lead to the development of NAFLD.
Cooking with vegetable oil
Vegetable oil may sound healthy, but it can be a major contributor to poor liver health over time.
"Refined vegetable oils high in omega-6 fatty acids and cooking with fats beyond the smoking point can cause chronic inflammation that potentially leads to NAFLD," says Tina Marinaccio, MS, RD, CPT, an integrative culinary registered dietitian nutritionist with Health Dynamics LLC.
Drinking alcohol can cause serious liver health issues over time—and it doesn't take much to cause damage.
"Excess alcohol over time leads to excessive liver inflammation, which can lead to permanent scarring," says Taylor Graber, MD, owner of ASAP IVs.
"As this scarring becomes worse, liver function becomes impaired as the condition approaches cirrhosis and ultimately liver failure."
However, the threshold for "excess" consumption may be lower than you expect. "Drinking more than 1-2 alcoholic beverages per day will lead to accumulation of a toxic by-product called acetaldehyde. This is very damaging to your liver cells and over time can lead to cirrhosis," says Sanjiv Lakhia, DO, a physician with Lakhia Integrative Health.
For more reasons to limit your alcohol intake, check out these 41 Ways Alcohol Ruins Your Health.