Sugared drinks are the primary cause of fatty liver disease, according to a report in the Journal of Hepatology (May 29, 2015). A fatty liver can lead to diabetes, which can cause heart attacks and premature death. Another report in Circulation (July 2015) estimated that 180,000 deaths worldwide could be prevented by reducing consumption of sugared drinks.
How Storing Fat in Your Belly Kills
If you have a fat belly and fat hips, you may not be in trouble. However, if you have fat in your belly and little fat in your hips, that shows that you store most of your fat in and around your organs such as the liver and heart. Storing fat in your liver leads to diabetes. Just having very narrow hips is a risk factor for diabetes, even if you do not yet have a large belly.
Your liver controls blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels rise, your pancreas releases large amounts of insulin which is supposed to lower high blood sugar levels by driving sugar from your bloodstream into your liver. However, when you have fat in your liver, your liver does not accept the sugar, so blood sugar levels remain high. Worse, a fatty liver releases sugar from its cells to drive blood sugar levels even higher.
High blood sugar levels cause sugar to stick to the outer membranes of every cell in your body. Once stuck on a cell surface membrane, sugar cannot get off. It is eventually converted by a series of chemical reactions to sorbitol that destroys the cell. This is the process that causes the side effects of diabetes: blindness, deafness, heart attacks, kidney damage, impotence, loss of feeling in your feet and so forth.
How Drinks and Foods with Added Sugar Cause a Fatty Liver
The highest rises in blood sugar come from sugared drinks. This includes fruit juices and milk as well as sugared soft drinks and coffee or tea with sugar. Foods made with added sugars also cause high blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels rise, sugar is used for energy and a small amount is stored in your muscles and your liver. After that, excess sugar in your bloodstream is immediately converted to a type of fat called triglycerides. Just minutes after taking a sugared drink your blood triglycerides rise. The triglycerides are then stored in fat cells, muscles and in the liver itself.
Your doctor can order a picture of your liver called a liver sonogram. If it shows fat in your liver, you probably already have pre-diabetes or diabetes. As fat accumulates in your liver, you can develop a condition called a fatty liver. Excess fat in your liver causes far more than just diabetes. Fat in liver cells destroys liver cells to replace them with scar tissue. When this happens, doctors call it NASH (Non-Alcoholic Steato Hepatitis). Because NASH can destroy the liver, patients may require a liver transplant to keep them alive. Alcohol can also destroy liver cells and fill them with fat, so alcohol also causes a fatty liver. Twenty to thirty percent of North American adults have extra fat in their livers that can cause diabetes, liver failure, liver cancer, and death.
How to Cure a Fatty Liver
You can't remove excess fat from your liver with just drugs. To cure a fatty liver, you need to:
• Lose weight, particularly in your belly. Your goal is to be able to pinch less than an inch of fat under the skin on your belly. See Intermittent Fasting for my recommendations
• Avoid sugared drinks and sugar-added foods
• Restrict red meat (blocks insulin receptors)
• Eat lots of vegetables, nuts and fruit
• Exercise every day
• Get blood levels of hydroxy vitamin D above 50 nmol/L
Not Everyone Appreciates My Advice
Whenever I see a man with a big belly and small hips, I want to go up and tell him:
• he has metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes), or worse, already has diabetes
• he is at high risk for a heart attack, nerve damage, and early death
• he has a condition that cannot be cured with drugs, but
• he CAN be cured with lifestyle changes and he can live to be 100 if he makes the changes immediately and dramatically.
Last week, I was at our town square and saw a man with a huge belly and very narrow hips. I could not restrain myself. I went up to him and told him that he was probably diabetic and in great danger of dying soon. He frowned at me and said, "My father lived to be 106." I asked, "How can that be?" He replied, "He minded his own business."