As it turns out, simply switching to a healthier diet may not be enough when it comes to supporting liver health. Regardless of whether or not you are trying to lose weight, scientists at Oregon State University point out that when it comes to healthy liver function, kicking the sugar habit is one of the best things you can do.
In a recent study involving mice, researchers determined that too much sugar may make it harder for the body to repair liver damage caused by an unhealthy diet. They discovered this after dividing the mice into two groups and feeding them either a healthy diet or a diet high in sugar, cholesterol, and fat—much like the standard American diet (SAD).
After only five and a half months, the mice in the latter group developed liver damage, so researchers switched them to the healthy diet for an additional eight weeks to see what would happen. The result? The change helped reverse some of the liver damage, but there was still some scarring left behind. Now for the really interesting part.
Researchers then repeated the experiment, but when they switched the mice to a healthy diet after the initial study period, they bumped up the sugar content significantly. In humans, it would be like drinking four regular sodas a day, or about 600 added calories from sugar. The results were astonishing: in terms of liver damage, the mice on the high-sugar diet were far worse off than their non-added-sugar counterparts. Specifically, they exhibited “significantly higher levels” of inflammation, oxidative stress, and liver fibrosis (the buildup of scar tissue due to ongoing liver cell damage).
“The going theory has been that if you lose weight and eat healthy, everything would be fixed. That’s not true,” said lead author and OSU doctoral candidate Kelli Lytle, who believes Western eating habits have played a major role in the current state of liver health in this country. She and her colleagues agree that kicking the sugar habit is a must when it comes to improving and preserving healthy liver function.