This article originally appeared on Clean Eating
It’s no secret that B vitamins are nutritional powerhouses. These particular nutrients, eight in total, play a role in a multitude of physiological functions, from the construction of DNA to the development of red blood cells and the proper functioning of the nervous system. And they are particularly beneficial for your mood, stress level and energy.
However, based on recent research, there may be even greater benefits to making sure you get plenty of B vitamins in your daily diet. It could play a role in keeping your liver healthy and, for some liver conditions, show promise as a future treatment.
B vitamins may be a promising potential treatment for common liver conditions
In a study published in Journal of Hepatology.
Using preclinical models and human data, researchers examined how homocysteine levels increase as fatty liver disease progresses, specifically how non-alcoholic fatty liver disease progresses to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis over time. They found that as homocysteine levels in the liver increased, the amino acids present also changed in structure and typical function. These changes actually prevented certain liver proteins from transporting and digesting fat (or performing autophagy, a key cellular process in the body).
It also impacted liver metabolism, mitochondrial turnover, and the ability to prevent inflammation. This, in turn, seemed to make way for worsening fatty liver disease.
However, when researchers supplemented the diets with vitamin B12 and folic acid in preclinical models, these two nutrients were able to restore autophagy. The supplements also helped slow progression to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and reduce (and even reverse) liver inflammation.
The results of this research suggest that vitamin B12 and folic acid may have a positive impact on liver health, especially in people with fatty liver disease. These particular nutrients, in supplement form, may even hold the ability to reverse fatty liver disease.
What is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which fat accumulates in the liver. But it’s also an umbrella term, as it includes a range of different liver conditions that affect people who drink little or no alcohol, but experience fat accumulation similar to that of people with alcoholic fatty liver disease.
NAFLD affects a surprisingly large number of individuals – 25% of all adults worldwide live with the disease. And it’s closely linked to two other common health conditions, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
As NAFLD progresses, it can lead to other liver problems such as cirrhosis, scarring, liver dysfunction, and increased risk of liver cancer. The disease can also progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), for which no known pharmacological treatment is currently available.
And, perhaps most important of all, NAFLD and NASH can develop in just about anyone. While there is certain health factors this can put you at increased risk, even those who avoid alcohol can develop NAFLD.
B vitamins may offer benefits in combination with good nutrition
While the results of this study are exciting, especially when it comes to finding a potential treatment for NAFLD and NASH, scientists warn that more research is needed.
But with this initial study, there is much to be excited about the future of liver health and the treatment of both NAFLD and NASH. As said by lead author, Professor Paul M. Yen, head of the Hormonal Regulation Laboratory of the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Program at Duke-NUS. Daily Science“The potential for using vitamin B12 and folate, which have high safety profiles and are designated as dietary supplements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as first-line therapies for the prevention and treatment of NASH, could result in huge cost savings and reduce the health burden of NASH in developed and developing countries.”
Although more research will likely test these results in the years to come, there are steps you can take to protect your liver and give it a boost right now. If you’re diagnosed with a form of fatty liver disease, you can discuss potential nutrients — like vitamin B12 and folic acid — with your doctor and determine if these supplements may be beneficial.
Additionally, you can also check your daily diet for some liver health benefits. Previous research suggests that adding certain foods to your meals can help fight fatty liver disease, and some are incredibly easy to try (like coffee!) And there’s also research that suggests which foods and drinks can be potential contributors to NAFLD and NASH, which you can limit or consume in moderation.
Featured recipe: Clams in Salsa Verde with Sherry
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