In the industrial era, one organ that’s been under serious siege is the liver. It was never designed for the way we eat or the massive number of strange new toxins in the world – things that simply didn’t exist before humans started mining and smelting metals on a massive scale, manufacturing chemicals, burning fossil fuels, and all the rest.
The liver is tasked with a number of jobs including clearing the body of toxins. And it’s being overwhelmed. One result is that we’ve seen a staggering increase in various liver pathologies, including liver cancer and fatty liver disease. And the increase has come on fast.
This is what’s causing it. . .
Cancer-Killing “Smart Bomb”
The rate of liver cancer is alarming enough to call it an epidemic. Contributing to this rise is the epidemic of expanding waistlines, outright obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
“Liver cancer rates have approximately tripled in the United States since the mid-1970s and the prognosis for patients diagnosed with this type of cancer is especially grim,” says researcher Peter Campbell, the strategic director of Digestive System Cancer Research at the American Cancer Society.
It’s mostly about our bellies. . .
In Campbell’s study, which involved more than a million US citizens, he and his colleagues found that if you are overweight, your risk of liver cancer climbs significantly. For every two-inch increase in your waistline, your risk grows by eight percent. Plus, having type 2 diabetes increases your chance of getting liver cancer by more than two-and-a-half times.1
In the past, liver cancer was thought to be linked mainly to drinking too much alcohol or suffering a hepatitis infection. But this study now confirms what many researchers have believed: Our weight gain, particularly those pounds around the middle, are ruining our livers.
Fat tissue causes inflammation
A big problem is that the weight so many of us carry around our middles increases inflammation in our bodies and contributes to what’s called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), an illness that can lead to liver cancer.
As fat tissue collects in the liver it can permanently scar this organ – a condition called cirrhosis. Cirrhosis seriously compromises the liver’s ability to cope with its necessary functions.
About four of five people who are obese suffer some degree of NAFLD. And these days even about one in six people who are of normal weight have NAFLD. “While NAFLD is commonly associated with obesity, research has highlighted that a percentage of patients are not actually obese,” says Italian researcher Rosa Lombardi.
The problem is that even if you are not technically overweight, carrying extra stomach fat around the middle puts you at greater risk of NAFLD.
“… the severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is not necessarily linked to how obese an individual is, but instead how much fat build-up they have around the waist,” says Frank Tacke, governing board member of the European Association for the Study of the Liver.
How to reduce your risk
Fortunately, there are several natural – and fairly easy – ways you can protect your liver and lower your risk of liver complications and cancer.
Perhaps the simplest is to drink coffee. Yes, that’s right, merely drinking coffee every day can help the liver stay healthier, lower the chances of NAFLD and shrink the odds of eventually developing tumors.
I wouldn’t say it’s a first-line defense. Eating right would be a better choice. But it’s better than nothing.
This was revealed in a study in Italy that shows that consuming coffee can actually help reverse NAFLD by changing what happens to your food after you eat.
According to this lab research, if a person weighing about 155 pounds drinks about six cups of espresso coffee daily, changes in the digestive tract protect the liver.2 It does this by increasing the production of a protein called zonulin that tightens up the walls of the intestines, closes the spaces between cells (the tight junctions) and decreases the permeability of the intestinal walls.
Otherwise, when the intestines are more permeable, it can lead to a condition called leaky gut that allows large fragments of protein from food to enter the body and increase inflammation.
If I drank the amount of coffee shown to be effective in this study, I’d be up for two days. But there seems to be little question that it’s good medicine.
“Previous studies have confirmed how coffee can reverse the damage of NAFLD but (ours) is the first to demonstrate that it can influence the permeability of the intestine,” says researcher Vincenzo Lembo, “The results also show that coffee can reverse NAFLD-related problems such as ballooning degeneration, a form of liver cell degeneration.”
The study showed that compounds in coffee also reduce levels of alanine aminotransferase in the blood – an enzyme that increases as a result of liver damage. At the same time, the substances in coffee contribute to a drop in the level of harmful fat in liver cells.
A better idea if you really want a healthy liver
Another pretty simple – but more strenuous – way to help out your liver is to exercise. Coach was right when he told you to do more crunches. (For those who have never been inside a gym, crunches are an exercise to build abdominal muscles and take off abdominal fat.)
A study in Australia demonstrates that aerobic exercise (running, swimming, walking, etc.) can cut back on fat in the liver as well as on visceral fat around your middle – even if your exercise program doesn’t result in lost pounds.3
“The results from our study show that all exercise doses, irrespective of volume or intensity, were efficacious in reducing liver fat and visceral fat by an amount that was clinically significant, in previously inactive, overweight, or obese adults compared with placebo,” says researcher Nathan Johnson, who is with the University of Sydney. “These changes were observed without clinically significant weight loss.”
But even if you don’t want to engage in an aerobic workout, the researchers also point out that resistance exercises (lifting weights) have also been shown to shrink fat deposits in the liver.
The vitamin that can ward off cancer
If you’ve been reading Cancer Defeated for a while, you won’t be surprised when I reveal the under-appreciated vitamin can help keep the liver safer: vitamin D.
Research at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, California shows that, for the liver to optimally benefit from vitamin D, it has to interact with a protein in the liver known as p62.4 But while p62 is produced by liver cells called stellate cells – cells that also store vitamin A and help the liver regenerate and repair itself – people with liver cancer may be lacking in adequate p62. (However, no one knows if this deficiency in p62 starts before the cancer develops or is a result.)
The scientists in California also found that when p62 latches on to vitamin D, the stellate cells can store more vitamin A, which reduces inflammation and helps limit liver damage.
So if you’re looking to avoid liver cancer, vitamin D is a crucial nutrient you should be consuming – and you can also help your body make vitamin D by getting adequate sunshine.
In addition to exercise, coffee and vitamin D, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel’s sprouts have also been shown to significantly cut down the chances of liver cancer.
And a study at the University of Illinois shows that broccoli not only defends against liver cancer but also helps prevent NAFLD. While other lab studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables protect against the deposit of fat in the liver, the Illinois study, which focused on broccoli, found that it can both stop the collection of fat in the liver and, when cancer is present, may decrease the size of tumors.5
The researchers advise against eating fast food – with its collection of liver-challenging, low quality fats – but if you do eat fast food, they encourage you to have a side order of broccoli with it.
And one last tip – if you’re worried about your liver, you also need to limit your sugar intake. An ideal level would be no sugar at all. Sugar is poison for the liver, according to researchers at Oregon State University. Even if you exercise, lose weight and adopt other healthy lifestyle habits, eating a lot of sugary foods can still sabotage your liver.6
Our last issue discussed a popular candy that happens to contain a cancer-fighting herb. If you missed the article, we’re rerunning it below.
This Candy, Popular for Generations,
Contains a Powerful Cancer-Fighter
By definition, candy is a frivolous treat – sugary and devoid of nutrients.– designed to appeal to your sweet tooth, not your good sense.
But just because a particular kind of plant is mostly known in the US for being a candy ingredient, doesn’t mean that this botanical shouldn’t be taken seriously as a traditional herbal remedy.
And if many medical researchers have their way, the rich collection of anti-cancer natural substances in this herb will soon be put to use to help people survive their tumors.
The herb is licorice – a powerful medicinal plant used around the world since the beginning of human history to treat a wide variety of ills. Now, this doesn’t mean you should run to the store and load up on licorice candy. You need to take it in herbal form to get the desired effect – and there are important cautions I’ll get to later.
But for some cancer patients it may develop into a valuable treatment. Here’s the full story. . .
A Few Sips a Day,
The Simple Secret That’s Saving Thousands of People Around The World from Deadly Cancers…
The National Cancer Institute confirmed its effectiveness. When the results came in, the NCI researchers were amazed…
In their experiments, cells from six of the deadliest cancers were knocked out – lung cancer, colon cancer, leukemia, ovarian cancer, kidney cancer and melanoma. In every test almost all of the cancer cells were dead. Wiped out within just 48 hours of being exposed to one little-known cancer treatment…
Imagine the millions of lives it could save, Then brace yourself for a shocking surprise…
Alexander the Great’s doctor was a licorice fan
Licorice root is an herb that has been in medical use as far back as the ancient Assyrians and Egyptians — King Tut was buried with a supply in his tomb. The physician Dioscorides, who treated the soliders of Alexander the Great, prescribed the root to boost endurance and stamina among the king’s Macedonian regiments.
Today, modern research is demonstrating that licorice root is composed of a complex collection of phytochemicals that produce profound effects in the body – including the power to fight cancer.
For instance, a pair of related chemicals found in licorice root, isoliquiritigenin and quercetin, have been shown to disrupt the growth of tumors and protect against the spread of cancer cells.
A study of how isoliquiritigenin fights skin cancer shows that it can slow, stop and reverse tumor expansion by interfering with how cancer cells produce the energy that fuels their growth.1
Normal cells get most of their energy from biochemical processes called oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) that take place in their mitochondria, often called the cell’s “batteries.” This process oxidizes nutrients — producing energy that is generally stored in a substance called ATP.
Cancer cells almost always produce energy differently. First off, to support their energy production they have an outsized hunger for sugar – in the form of glucose that is delivered from their own network of blood vessels.
This enlarged supply of glucose is necessary to maintain their preferred method of energy generation, which researchers now call aerobic glycolysis. This is essentially a process that ferments sugar to produce the energy that keeps the cancer growing. (Cancer cells’ preference for glycolsis in meeting their energy supplies is known as the “Warburg effect.”2)
A study in China, though, shows that isoliquiritigenin from licorice can block the action of enzymes that allow cancer cells to succesfully maintain glycolysis. Isoliquiritigenin forces these cells to revert to healthy mitochondrial functions that produce energy the normal way – by oxidzing nutrients.
And guess what? The studies demonstrate that forcing cancer cells to try and make energy like normal cells keeps them contained and unable to spread. Eventually, it kills most of them.
This forced switch back to OXPHOS or healthy cell metabolism is fatal to cancer cells for reasons that are complicated. According to scientists at the University of Alberta in Canada, chemical byproducts that are generated by cancer cells during glycolysis, including lactate, help tumors proliferate and spread in several ways: They break down the structure of nearby normal cells (allowing cancer to invade), and boost the cancer cells’ ability to metastasize i.e. spread throughout the body.3
By standing in the way of glycolysis, isoliquiritigenin eliminates these advantages.
Other researchers at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine believe that glycolysis also produces substances that help tumors resist the efforts of immune cells to kill off cancer cells and can make cancer resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.4
Investigators have found that when isoliquiritigenin shuts off a cancer cell’s supply of glycolytic enzymes, cancer cells flounder for energy supplies. And the attempt at starting up normal mitochondrial methods of fueling the cell’s activities produces proteins that lead to apoptosis – the cell’s programmed self-destruction.5
Going after colon cancer
Another substance in licorice root – quercetin – (which is also found in other fruits and vegetables), has been shown to help fight cancer in significant ways.
Lab research at Texas A&M AgriLife demonstrates that quercetin can protect the colon against inflammation and the development of tumors.6
Quercetin interrupts one of the first signs of developing colon cancer — the formation of what are known as “aberrant crypts.”
“(These crypts or lesions) are some of the first true changes in the colon that can be observed visually,” says researcher Nancy Turner, Ph.D.
According to Dr. Turner, when the normal cells in a healthy colon age they eventually undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death) as they are replaced by younger cells. But when their apoptosis programming stops functioning properly, the aging cells accumulate, start to form crypts and can become cancerous.
In opposition to this process, quercetin helps maintain the proper rate of apoptosis: “(With quercetin), we were able to decrease the number of cells that were proliferating in the colon,” says Dr. Turner. “And we were able to increase the number of cells that were undergoing apoptosis. So the net effect of that is, we were able to maintain almost a normal number of cells.”
Helps contain inflammation
Quercetin also limits inflammation that can lead to colon tumors. In Dr. Turner’s study, her team of investigators focused on two well-known inflammatory enzymes called Cox-1 and Cox-2. Of these, the presence of Cox-2 has long been considered a troubling sign of potential cancer.
“Cox-2 is an inducible protein that is expressed in the body when there is some kind of external stimulus to a cell,” she says. “We think of high levels of Cox-2 as being a bad thing.”
But her research now demonstrates that even before Cox-2 levels begin to elevate, Cox-1 increases – suggesting that Cox-1 exerts an influence on the production of Cox-2.
Dr. Turner’s investigation shows that quercetin can rein in both Cox-1 and Cox-2: “So that would tend to suggest that there may be opportunity for quercetin to suppress tumor development,” she notes.
At the same time, researchers in Asia have formulated a substance made from quercetin that they found could effectively force colon cancer cells to undergo apoptosis.7 And a study in Croatia shows that when quercetin enters the digestive tract, the body can convert it into powerful antioxidants that improve colon health.8
While quercetin is a natural substance (classified as a flavonoid) that is contained in foods like onions and apples, licorice is a unique source of natural compounds that combines this chemical with isoliquiritigenin and other beneficial phytochemicals.
And there are enough of these to keep cancer researchers busy for a long time.
But there are some cautions you need to heed when it comes to licorice. The FDA cautions that anyone 40 years of age or older should limit their licorice consumption. It contains glycyrrhizin, a chemical that can cause heartbeat irregularities because it can mess with your potassium levels.9
And the University of Maryland says that if you take licorice root as an herb, consult your health practitioner before using it for more than a week.10 Plus, avoid this herb if you have a serious health issue like diabetes or heart disease. And never give it to children except under the strict supervision of a knowledgeable practitioner.