How Sugar Consumption Leads to Fatty Liver

In America, it is estimated that 90 million people have fatty liver disease. 17% of them are children! Fatty liver disease used to be associated only with those who consumed too much alcohol. So how is it possible that even non-alcoholics are getting fatty liver disease, especially children!?

The culprit is sugar.

Fructose is the sugar found in everything from high fructose corn syrup and fruit juice to agave and honey and it is harmful when consumed in excess. You may be surprised to learn, that fructose is in many ways very similar to alcohol in the way that it can do damage to the body.

Even if you may be exercising caution by not overconsuming alcoholic beverages, it is now time to take a deeper look at the equally potentially damaging effects associated with the intake of sodas, fruit juices, and other fructose sweetened foods and drinks.

Sugar switches on fat production in your liver. Fructose, the most detrimental sugar which heads directly to your liver, ramps up the production of fat.  Fructose is a main player in the increasing rates of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

What about glucose? Well, unlike glucose, which can be used by virtually every cell in your body, fructose can only be metabolized by your liver. Since all fructose gets moved along to your liver, and if you eat a typical Standard American Diet (SAD) and consume high amounts of it, fructose ends up taxing and damaging your liver in the same way alcohol does. It is virtually identical to alcohol in regards to the metabolic havoc it wreaks. Just like alcohol, fructose is metabolized directly into fat – not cellular energy like glucose.

Fatty liver disease occurs when some of those fat molecules accumulate into the liver cells. The presence of those fattened cells lead to inflammation of the liver.

Dr. Robert Lustig published a paper in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and explained three similarities between fructose and alcohol:

  1. Your liver’s metabolism of fructose is similar to alcohol, as they both serve as substrates for converting dietary carbohydrate into fat, which promotes insulin resistance, dyslipidemia (abnormal fat levels in the bloodstream), and fatty liver
  2. Fructose undergoes the Maillard reaction with proteins, leading to the formation of superoxide free radicals that can result in liver inflammation similar to acetaldehyde, an intermediary metabolite of ethanol.
  3. By “stimulating the ‘hedonic pathway’ of the brain both directly and indirectly,” Dr. Lustig noted, “fructose creates habituation, and possibly dependence; also paralleling ethanol.”

Fructose causes most of the same toxic effects as alcohol because both come from sugar fermentation. They both lead to visceral fat (belly fat), insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.

What’s really alarming is the rise in children who have fatty liver disease. When we feed children fructose and other highly toxic substances, we are setting them up for diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and even liver transplants.

How do you know if you have a fatty liver? If you eat lots of sugar, refined grains, flour, have a little belly fat, or crave carbs you could possibly have a fatty liver.

Thankfully there are effective strategies to reverse and even prevent fatty liver.

  1. Eliminate all high-fructose corn syrup, even when it comes in the form of “healthy” foods like salad dressings and marinara sauce. There is often times hidden sugars in packaged foods.
  2. Eliminate white, processed, and refined flours.
  3. Incorporate healthy fats into your diet. Things like nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconut oil.
  4. Exercise! Routine, daily exercise improves insulin resistance and reduces fatty liver.
  5. Eat detoxifying and liver supporting foods. Cruciferous vegetable and green leafy vegetables can help heal the liver. Garlic and onions are great detoxifiers as well.

Fatty Liver: How it Starts

  1. Insulin resistance increases fatty acid levels in the blood
  2. Fat accumulates in the liver cells
  3. Fat in liver calls causes inflammation and damages the liver tissue
  4. Further liver damage results in liver fibrosis and cirrhosis (by continual consumption of the SAD)
  5. This damage is linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke

We must stop our reliance on convenience foods which are void of nutrition and full of harm inducing toxins. And we absolutely must stop stop stop feeding these foods and drinks to our children! Giving them a bowl of cereal or a muffin for breakfast is akin to giving them a glass of alcohol for breakfast. And no one would do that!

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