In a randomized placebo control study of 52 subjects with Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) those who took 500 mg twice daily of liposomal curcumin (an extract from Turmeric) had obvious improvement in liver enzymes and ultrasonic imaging. Levels of liver enzyme decreased and levels of liver fat decreased after an 8 week treatment compared to the control group. Ultra-sonographic findings were improved in 75.0% of subjects in the curcumin group, while the rate of improvement in the placebo group was 4.7% (Panahi et al., 2017)
NAFLD is common problem in adults and is considered the hepatic (liver) manifestation of metabolic syndrome. But it is also a concerning problem in children. In obese children from industrialized countries, NAFLD prevalence is up to 80%, with a male-to-female ratio of 2: 1. It’s thought to be primarily caused by insulin resistance but other known causes are discussed such as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (Shanab et al., 2011) and Toxin Associated Steatohepatitis (TASH) (Patrick, 2015
In NAFLD the liver cells called hepatocytes get infiltrated with fat (steatohepatitis) and the liver architecture begins to change. There is inflammation leading to steatohepatitis and inflammation because of steatohepatitis. It has the potential to progress to non-alcoholic steatotic hepatitis (NASH). Once the liver progresses to NASH there is greater potential develop fibrosis and cirrhosis leading to portal hypertension, liver decompensation, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Liver failure is a serious problem and leads to a high risk of mortality.
As mentioned, another subset of steatohepatitis is called Toxin Associated Hepatitis (TASH). The toxins associated with TASH are petrochemicals and organic solvents such as: benzene, toluene, styrene, hexane, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, methanol, trichloroethylene and vinyl chloride.These solvents are commonly found in cigarette smoke, paints, automobile exhaust, pesticides, air fresheners, and solvents used for cleaning and dry cleaning. The environmental agents are called persistent organic pollutants (POPS) .
There is an association of POPS exposure with TASH mainly because high exposures to POPS increases the risk of Type II diabetes and insulin resistance. Also exposures to biocides like tributyltin have been associated with TASH Finally heavy metal burden of Aluminum , Arsenic , Cadmium , Lead , Manganese, Fluoride, and Thallium can damage mitochondria of the liver leading to steatohepatitis (Patrick, 2015). There are now excellent tests available to assess for chemical burden such as the ENVIRO-Tox test from Great Plains Laboratory.
How do we address NAFLD? The best evidence is weight loss and tight insulin control. So basically losing weight and adopting a lower carb, moderate protein, moderate fat diet. And of course exercising. In my practice, I hunt around also for signs and symptoms of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and try to address that.
And, there are several nutritional supplements we have used over the years that have helped such as Vitamin E, Omega 3's, Resveratrol, Milk Thistle, and Probiotics. However this study with liposomal curcumin is quite compelling. The authors propose that curcumin decreases the production of reactive oxygen species by inhibition of hepatic stellate cell activation and reduction of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 release. They also propose that the mechanism of action of curcumin may involve peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPAR-γ) activation which can improve insulin sensitivity. Famous medications like metformin also involve PPAR- γ.
Please note that this not just any old curcumin. They used Meriva curcumin which is a specific form of the turmeric extract that is bound to phosphatidylcholine which dramatically increases the absorbability of the supplement.
While it’s important to dig for the root cause it’s also good to know that a supplement with little to know side effects can protect the liver from progressing to the more serious form of the disease called NASH.
If all of this information on toxins caught your attention I highly recommend visiting and supporting The Environmental Working Group.