Heavy drinking is the most famous cause of liver failure, but liver disease is on the rise among those who rarely - if ever - drink. It's called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
NAFLD is caused by a buildup of triglycerides and free cholesterol in the liver. As fat accumulates in liver cells, it causes progressive swelling and damage.
Risk factors mirror those for cardiovascular disease: obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension and high levels of fat and cholesterol in the blood.
While causation is not crystal clear, we can bet poor diet is playing a major role. That's because the liver processes everything we consume and removes toxins. When our diets are high in saturated fats and fructose - that vile corn-based sweetener abundant in all things processed - conditions are ripe for NAFLD.
NAFLD can lead to cirrhosis, liver scarring and total liver failure, which is why it’s disconcerting that about 25 per cent of Canadians have the disease, according to the Canadian Liver Foundation.
Most of those with the disease are unaware until it has significantly progressed. Those with the most severe form of NAFLD don’t often show symptoms until a late stage when fatigue, weakness, abdominal pain, weight loss, jaundice and mental confusion set in.
We can expect increases in NAFLD as rates of obesity rise. Already approximately one-third of liver transplants in the US are related to NAFLD.
But of course, as individuals we don’t have to be statistics. Prevention starts with diet.
As with cardiovascular disease, it appears that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) matters with NAFLD. Most of us get too much omega-6, and too little omega-3. The latter is found in some fatty fish, flax and chia seeds, walnuts, and Moringa oleifera.
Saturated and trans fatty acids should be on your watch list. Fats from meat, dairy, fried and baked goods, for example, are associated with liver inflammation and NAFLD.
Certain foods exert a protective effect. Moringa leaves, for example, have been used traditionally to support liver health and treat hepatitis. The high level of caffeoylquinic acids in Moringa are believed to increase bile and exert a protective effect on the liver, possibly preventing liver disease.
According to Dr. Monica Marcu (author of The Miracle Tree), caffeoylquinic acids also reduce the symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, lack of appetite and nausea associated with liver and digestive disorders”.
The antioxidants in Moringa are also protective. One study in particular focused on the effect of Moringa leaf extract in preventing NAFLD induced via consumption of a high-fat diet (HFD). The results showed Moringa leaf protected the liver from HFD damage, and reduced signs of NAFLD. The researchers concluded that Moringa leaf has both preventative and curative hepatoprotective (liver-protective) activity.
Good news for 25% of Canadians - a figure on the rise. Start your prevention today with our organic, raw Moringa leaf powder.
Dr. Marcu, Monica. The Miracle Tree. (book)