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The #1 Worst Habit For Your Liver, Say Experts

Stop doing it right now.

We know the liver is a vital organ, but maybe we don't appreciate exactly how vital it is: The organ filters all the blood in the body to remove harmful toxins and processes fats, carbs, and sugars from everything we eat. But as with car engines, generally we don't think too much about it—until there's a problem. And liver problems aren't as rare as you might think. Certain common everyday habits can tax the liver and set it up for damage without you even knowing. These are some of the worst habits for your liver, according to science. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


You're Addicted to Added Sugar


Consuming too much added sugar can cause the body to develop insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone released when sugar enters the bloodstream to translate that sugar into fuel for the body. But when your system is constantly swamped with sugar, the body may quit responding to insulin, causing sugar to build up in the blood. That can lead to diabetes. Both insulin resistance and uncontrolled diabetes are associated with liver damage.

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You're Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Pouring whiskey drink into glass

Heavy drinking during the pandemic has led to a sharp increase in the number of people hospitalized for alcoholic liver disease nationwide. Alcohol can badly damage the liver, causing inflammation and leading to potentially fatal conditions like cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. To reduce your risk, drink alcohol only in moderation: No more than two drinks a day for men, and no more than one drink a day for women. 

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You Take Acetaminophen When Doing This

older woman taking pill or supplement
Shutterstock / fizkes

Taking the pain reliever acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) and drinking more than the recommended amount may cause severe liver damage. "If you regularly drink more than the recommended number of alcoholic drinks per day, you'd be best off to only use acetaminophen in rare instances and avoid daily doses greater than 4,000 mg," says the Cleveland Clinic. ​

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You're Physically Inactive

woman lying on sofa and watching tv.

Several studies have found that an inactive lifestyle is a major risk factor for NAFLD and liver damage, including a 2020 analysis published in Lipids in Health and Disease. South Korean researchers analyzed the health data of more than 13,000 people and found that the most sedentary quartile had nearly five times the risk of NAFLD of the most active quartile—and that risk increased "in magnitude" with more hours spent sitting. According to a 2018 review of studies, regular exercise reduces liver fat—even if it doesn't lead to weight loss. 

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You're Overweight or Obese

feet on scale

Called a "silent epidemic," Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver-related condition in the U.S., affecting about 25% of adults. It's caused by excessive amounts of fat building up in the liver. This can lead to an inflammatory condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), scarring (cirrhosis), liver cancer, and liver failure. "The entire spectrum of obesity, ranging from overweight to obese and severely obese, is associated with NAFLD," wrote researchers behind a 2020 report in the journal Translational Gastroenterology and Hepatology. To reduce your risk, maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if necessary. According to a 2018 review of studies, losing only 10% of body weight is enough to resolve NASH in more than 90% of people. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael