Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver and How Fucoxanthin Might Help
Many may not have heard of nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) yet it is a very common condition. If NAFL is not addressed, it can progress to a serious condition known as Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) Non-alcoholic fatty liver is the buildup of extra fat in liver cells that is not caused by alcohol. It is normal for the liver to contain some fat. However, if more than 5% – 10% percent of the liver’s weight is fat, then it is called a fatty liver (steatosis). The objective is to take as much preemptive action as possible in order to keep fatty deposits from increasing and avoid the health decline that can occur.
NAFL is more common in people who have certain conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Researchers have found NAFL in 40 to 80 percent of people who have type 2 diabetes and in 30 to 90 percent of people who are obese [i]. Additionally, it is estimated that 1 in 4 people around the world have some sort of NAFL while in the U.S. up to 100 million people may have fatty livers [ii]. Even though the above metabolic conditions contribute to having a fatty liver, it is not limited to people with these challenges. Certain medications, high blood fats, certain types of infections and even pregnancy can be an underlying cause of fatty deposits to form in the liver [iii].
As mentioned above, NAFL tends to develop in people who are overweight or obese or have diabetes, high cholesterol or high triglycerides. Rapid weight loss and poor eating habits also may lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver. The condition is also closely linked to metabolic syndrome, a condition that is a combination of cardiovascular and blood sugar control symptoms such as elevated blood pressure, elevated blood fats, insulin resistance, elevated blood sugar and increased abdominal fat.
What are the functions of the liver?
In order to understand why this condition is so severe, we need to take a closer look at why liver health is so essential to health. The liver’s primary functions are to filter the blood of toxins and help detoxify or neutralize toxins either ingested or produced naturally by the body. Additionally, the liver has an abundance of other functions including [iv]:
- Production of bile, which helps carry away waste and break down fats in the small intestine during digestion
- Production of specific proteins for blood plasma
- Production of cholesterol and special proteins to help carry fats through the body
- Store and release glucose as needed
- Processing of hemoglobin for the use of its iron content (the liver stores iron)
- Clearing the blood of drugs and other harmful substances
- Regulating blood clotting
- Resisting infections by producing immune factors and removing bacteria from the bloodstream
- Clearance of bilirubin (if there is a buildup of bilirubin, the skin and eyes turn yellow)
As with any health challenge, there are always risk factors which increase your chance of developing that health issue. In the case of NAFL, the following are the more common areas in which we should focus our attention: High blood fats, metabolic syndrome, being overweight/obese, type 2 diabetes, under active thyroid, PCOS and even sleep apnea. When someone has 2 or more of these risk factors, it would be suggested to check with your healthcare provider for suggested courses of action.
How can it be prevented?
Even though the information above can be quite scary, several things can be done to reduce the risk of developing NAFL:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Limit alcohol intake
- Only take medicines that you need and follow dosing recommendations.
- Supplementation with liver support ingredients
In the area of supplementation, several supplements are often included such as; fucoxanthin, milk thistle, turmeric, black seed oil, omega-3s, and phosphatidylcholine. Of these, fucoxanthin is showing great promise. Fucoxanthin is considered a specific carotenoid that has many bioactivities. Since the year 2000, there have been more than 500 peer-reviewed articles showing the benefits of fucoxanthin [v]. In addition to the liver health support properties, fucoxanthin was shown to have multiple health-promoting effects, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity effects[vi].
When we take a closer look at the research done with fucoxanthin, we see that there is a building body of evidence showing it affects many of the underlying risk factors for developing NAFL and directly on fatty liver. In the article published in the journal Hepatobiliary Surgery and Nutrition, researchers found that supplementation with fucoxanthin reduced body weight, body and liver fat content, and improved liver function tests in obese premenopausal women with NAFL. They also found that consuming fucoxanthin was effective in improving lipid and cholesterol metabolism [vii].
Another study evaluated the impact of consuming fucoxanthin in rats on a high fat diet and the impact of the amount of fat buildup in the liver. The results showed that the total amount of fat, cholesterols and triglycerides were “significantly reduced” in the group consuming fucoxanthin [viii].
Suffice it to say, NAFL is here and will be a growing condition worldwide. Consumers, healthcare providers, and product formulators need to take note of NAFL, it’s risk factors and help to educate the population about lifestyle changes to halt and even reverse NAFL. Lifestyle changes such as diet changes, increased activity levels, and supplementation are critical and need to be conveyed.
FucoVitalTM is the only 3% fucoxanthin extract that targets the first stage of fatty liver by reducing the simple accumulation of fat in the liver. Algatech’s FucoVitalTM is, the first fucoxanthin derived from microalgae and is cultivated year-round in an industrial closed and controlled system, fully exposed to natural sunlight. FucoVitalTM is the only fucoxanthin extract to have obtained a New Dietary Ingredient Notification (“NDIN”) by the FDA, and the first and only microalgae-derived fucoxanthin product on the market.
FucoVitalTM proprietary Fucoxanthin Oleoresin: The world’s first microalgae extract standardized to 3% fucoxanthin, plus naturally occurring omega-3’s (EPA) and other beneficial fatty acids. Fucoxanthin is a safe ingredient that has been sold in the U.S. and Asia as a dietary supplement for many years, primarily as concentrates or extracts of seaweed such as Macrocystis, Laminaria and Undaria. Existing fucoxanthin production relies solely on harvesting seaweed which has extremely low fucoxanthin concentrations. Moreover, supply of seaweed has always been limited, relying on the harvest seasons and subject to issues with heavy metals and other contamination accumulated from ocean pollution.
[vi] Fucoxanthin: A Promising Medicinal and Nutritional Ingredient, Zhang H, Tang Y, Zhang Y, et al., Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2015: 723515.
[vii] Carotenoids and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Yilmaz B, Sahin K, Bilen H, et al., Hepatobiliary Surgery and Nutrition, 2015 Jun; 4(3): 161–171.
[viii] Ha A, Kim W, The effect of fucoxanthin rich power on the lipid metabolism in rats with a high fat diet, Nutritional Research and Practice 2013 August: 7(4): 287–293
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