You probably don’t think too much about your liver – unless you’re drinking alcohol heavily. But that’s exactly what Dr Federica Amati, nutritional scientist, wants you to do. The liver, she believes is one of our most vital internal organs and we should be more mindful of its health. “The liver is unique in its incredible ability to renew itself,” explains Dr Federica. “This is a reflection of just how crucial it is for our health: we can use dialysis when our kidneys fail, a mechanical heart when performing heart surgery and even mechanical lungs. When our livers fail there is no way to survive.”
So why are top medical and nutritional scientists so focused on the liver right now? What has recently come to light? “The past decade has seen huge interest in medical science of the rising numbers of NAFLD (Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease) and MAFLD (Metabolic-associated Fatty Liver Disease),” explains Dr Federica, saying that 1 in 4 people now has a form of Fatty Liver Disease. “It’s a worrying trend that points to the impacts of modern lifestyle and diets on our master organ. I think the attention on the liver is deserved: without understanding how our liver works, we can’t really understand our metabolism.”
And people 50 plus – the Goldster demographic – are especially at risk according to Dr Federica. “Generally, the impact of our lifestyles is felt in midlife. We can mostly get by living a stressful life with less unhealthy diet patterns without any major symptoms or changes to our master organs until we hit midlife. In our 50s and 60s, the stress tends to catch up and our livers are no longer able to counter the stressors of daily life without being looked after.” This, she says, is when diseases such as NAFLD, MAFLD and liver cancer tend to occur, and they can be difficult to treat or reverse. Although fatty liver deposits and stiff liver can be identified and reversed. “It’s worth identifying before it becomes a bigger problem.”
Why are so many of us (and people in midlife especially) having these liver problems? What are they doing wrong? It’s lifestyle, diet and overconsumption of pharmaceuticals which pose a stress to our livers, Dr Federica says. “What may seem like fairly harmless behaviours of going out for several drinks on a Friday night, eating some fast food on the way home and taking paracetamol the next day to help with the headache can have a cumulative effect on our livers. If our unhelpful behaviours continue for decades, our liver will show signs of struggle, and this can quite often be around the age of 50.”
So how do we know if our liver is healthy or not? Dr Federica states it can be difficult to spot. “A fibroscan is an exciting and novel non-invasive test to check our liver health before it becomes problematic – i.e. before our blood liver markers are altered. Generally, if we are gaining a lot of excess weight and find ourselves generally feeling lethargic and unwell, our liver is likely under pressure.”
Keeping the liver healthy shouldn’t be difficult, even at 50 plus. It’s simply a matter of less alcohol, less ultra-processed high-sugar and high-fat foods, less unnecessary pharmaceuticals and less chronic stress. Dr Federica recommends the Mediterranean diet for liver health – a diet rich in plants, whole grains, nuts and seeds and seasonal vegetables. “Drinking less alcohol and removing high-sugar soft drinks and fruit juices is also really helpful. Extra virgin olive oil has a special role to play in a healthy diet too and we can’t forget the impact of daily movement. Simply walking more every day can vastly improve our liver health. And reach for a high polyphenol liver support elixir like ‘De-liver-ance’ to help speed liver repair up.”
On the topic of alcohol in particular, how much should we really be drinking to protect our livers? “If you enjoy drinking alcohol, limit this to one glass (of preferably red wine) with a meal and only on some nights of the week,” confirms Dr Federica.
The upshot is, if we want to live a longer, healthier life we need to be mindful of our livers. With these simple tips, you can avoid Fatty Liver Disease and save this essential organ.