Despite what those Instagram ads or juice companies might have you believe, a healthy liver does a fine job of “cleansing” and “detoxifying” itself.
That said, a surprising number – about 25% of American adults, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases– actually have a condition in which the function of their liver is affected due to excessive accumulation of fat within it. Speaking of liver function, by the way, the liver helps with everything from breaking down the food we eat, to converting extra blood sugar into glycogen (stored energy) that we can use later, and regulating blood levels of sugar. amino acids (building blocks of proteins) to clearing the blood of drugs and other toxic things, according to experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine.
In past generations, alcohol abuse was the most common cause of fatty liver disease. But that startling 1 in 4 statistic refers to Americans with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition where the liver has 5% or more of its weight made up of fat. Over time, this can lead to life-threatening health problems, such as cirrhosis and cancer, and is the leading cause of liver transplants worldwide.
Related: What is fatty liver disease?
Another worrying feature of NAFLD is that it is often a “silent disease”, meaning it has few or no symptoms. NIDDK confirmed.
But the good news is that we learn that NAFLD can essentially go into remission if taken in its early stages, again, no cleansing or detoxification is necessary. What you eat, including enough vitamin B12 and folic acid, can actually help reverse non-alcoholic fatty liver diseaseaccording to a new study published in July 2022 in the Journal of Hepatology.
What This Liver Health Study Revealed
Since this is an early theory on NAFLD, researchers from Duke National University in Singapore, along with colleagues from Singapore, India, China and the United States, tested their hypothesis for this mouse study.
Further research is clearly needed in humans with NAFLD. Yet to kick things off, this team was curious to test whether a condition called hyperhomocysteinemia, a metabolic disorder that causes a buildup of homocysteine in the liver, might be linked to the progression of NAFLD. According MedlinePlus, homocysteine helps the body produce protein. Since all cases of hyperhomocysteinemia are triggered by low dietary folate or vitamin B12 intake, the scientists supplemented the mice’s diet (trying to give them foods that could mimic the typical Western diet) with these two nutrients.
They found that these supplements slowed the progression of NAFLD and reversed liver inflammation and fibrosis (thickened scar tissue that can lead to cirrhosis).
“Our findings are both exciting and important because they suggest that a relatively inexpensive therapy, vitamin B12 and folic acid, could be used to prevent and/or delay progression. [of NAFLD]”, Brijesh Singh, Ph.D.assistant professor at Duke-NUS and co-author of the study, says Duke-NUS Medical School News.
Although this is a very first observation, concentrating on two nutrients in the context of a diet rich in these best foods for the liver is certainly much easier and more affordable than an organ transplant.
“Currently, the only treatment for patients with end-stage liver disease is to receive a transplant. The results…demonstrate that a simple, affordable and accessible intervention could potentially halt or reverse liver damage, providing a new hope for people with fatty liver disease”, Patrick Casey, Ph.D.senior associate dean for research at Duke-NUS, adds to Duke-NUS Medical School News.
4 Foods Rich in Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid
The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements guide on folate/folic acid and vitamin B12 validate that these foods and beverages are solid sources of the two nutrients that may reverse NAFLD. We list them below based on their Percent Daily Value.
3 ounces of beef liver: 54% DV folate; 2.944% DV of vitamin B12
1 serving of fortified breakfast cereal: 25% DV folate and vitamin B12
1 large egg: 6% DV folate; 19% DV of vitamin B12
1 cup of milk: 3% DV folate; 54% DV of vitamin B12
You can also find high amounts of folate in:
Black Eyed Peas
And vitamin B12 in:
Beyond these nutrient-dense foods, previous studies suggest than drinking three 6-ounce cups of coffee a day, swapping whole grains for refined grains, hoarding enough exercise and eat more cruciferous vegetables (including brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, and broccoli) are also big contributors to your liver health.
This new study suggests that two nutrients, folate and vitamin B12, may be particularly beneficial in helping to support liver health and potentially reverse non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Much more research is needed to confirm these results. Until we know more, though, it certainly can’t hurt to fill your plate with more foods that offer these nutrients. To do this, consider adding these delicious Gochujang Glazed Salmon with Garlic Spinach and Spaghetti with Quick Meat Sauce recipes on your menu this week.