If your liver could send you one warning, this is what it would be...

The silent epidemic

If your liver could talk…well, that would be annoying. But if your liver could speak just once and give you one piece of guidance, it might be this: “You are what you drink.”

What your liver is talking about is fatty liver disease.

FLD is caused by excessive and prolonged consumption of alcohol. Over time, heavy alcohol intake causes fat accumulation in the liver, which prompts inflammation and liver scar tissue.

Eventually, FLD can escalate into dangerous chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, liver cancer, and heart disease.

But notice that your liver only mentioned “drink” — not alcohol.

That’s because there’s another beverage that can contribute in a big way to FLD. But when alcohol isn’t part of the picture, the condition is known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Nearly one in every four Americans has NAFLD, and because there are no symptoms, hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — don’t even know it.

A daily attack on your liver

University of California researchers recently revealed a frightening connection between high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and NAFLD — frightening because indications of NAFLD development began so quickly.

After just two weeks (TWO weeks!), subjects who consumed either fructose or HFCS as 25% of their daily caloric intake (which, according to the USDA, a LOT of Americans do) showed significant blood level spikes of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

This is a potential disaster in the making. And even though we’ve been brainwashed to worry about LDL, this time it’s all about the triglycerides.

In NAFLD, triglyceride is the dangerous fat that accumulates in the livers of people who drink little or no alcohol. The resulting inflammation, scarring, and destruction of liver cells is basically the same thing that happens in people who drink alcohol to excess.

Last year I told you about a study where dietary information was gathered from 400 subjects with NAFLD. Results showed that more than 80 percent of the subjects drank HFCS-sweetened beverages, and nearly 30 percent said they did so every day.

Liver scarring was most pronounced in those with the highest HFCS intake.

If you find yourself craving a daily soda or two, or some other treat that’s sweetened with HFCS, don’t fool yourself into thinking that a little bit won’t do any harm. Even small amounts of this Franken-sugar can lead to serious damage — and very quickly.

“Added fructose ups lipids, even within USDA recommended limits” Steven Fox, Medscape Medical News, 7/30/11, medscape.com

“High Fructose Corn Syrup Linked to Liver Scarring” Randy Dotinga, HealthDay News, 3/19/10, healthday.com