Whilst most people in the UK are familiar with alcohol-related liver disease as a result of heavy drinking, which is on the rise, many of us are unaware of the problems associated with another form of liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – also known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). A recent review of four human studies by a group based at the University of Edinburgh found that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids not only improve liver health and function, but also increase insulin sensitivity in people suffering from fatty liver disease.
I’ve recently published an article on Omega 3s and fatty liver disease and the study led by Dr Gail Masterton and I would be very interested to hear your feed back!
The answer is actually yes, but the question is how? Well there are three main steps in the processing of that large gin and tonic that is placed in your hand in the back room of the “Six Bells” on a Friday night. Firstly alcohol (AKA ethanol) isn’t actually all that bad for you. However when we drink, ethanol is processed in the liver and converted to acetaldehyde, a toxic and highly reactive compound. Acetaldehyde is then further converted into acetate, a harmless form of acetic acid (the acid which gives vinegar its sour taste and pungent smell). There are two enzymes involved in this process, alcohol dehydrogenase (converting alcohol to acetaldehyde) and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (converting acetaldehyde to acetate). Ideally we would want to convert alcohol to acetaldehyde slowly to avoid build up, and then convert this toxic product as quickly as possible to harmless acetate. However, acetaldehyde dehydrogenase needs another substance called glutathione (a potent antioxidant), which contains high quantities of cysteine. Together, acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and the glutathione reduce acetaldehyde to acetate. Our bodies can cope efficiently as long as we don’t consume too many drinks too quickly. However, the liver’s stores of glutathione can quickly run out if large amounts of alcohol enter the system too quickly and the body struggles to keep up with the conversion of acetaldehyde to acetate, levels of acetaldehyde rise and result in that nasty hangover headache, feeling of fatigue and rather unpleasant dodgy tummy feeling! Cysteine is an amino acid found in most high-protein foods such as pork and eggs. So if you found yourself in a position of a little too much too quickly the night before the Sunday morning fry up (use olive oil, not vegetable oil) will provide the building blocks needed for the liver to replenish its depleted glutathione stores and help mop up those left-over toxins. But as I’ve said before, moderation is really the key to drinking. Make sure you line your stomach well (alcohol is an irritant), pace yourself, drink plenty of water and try to remember that a healthy liver can get rid of about one unit of alcohol an hour. So remember, that whilst that double gin and tonic may have only taken fifteen minutes to drink, your poor liver did not finish processing it for around another two hours!!