If you’ve noticed your pants are tighter lately, feel tired long before bed, and have borderline high cholesterol, a fat-bound liver could be to blame. Yes, the liver plays more than 500 roles in the body. Among its many functions, the body filters out toxins, supports immunity and digestion, and prevents blood sugar from rising. You may be familiar with all that but wondering if a fatty liver can cause weight gain. As the liver plays a key role in burning of fat, when it gets clogged with its own fat, more fat is deposited throughout your body. The good news: realizing that a fatty liver is causing your unexplained weight gain is the first step to curing the problem—and losing weight effortlessly.
What leads to fatty liver?
“Think of the liver as a processing plant that never shuts down,” suggests the Cleveland Clinic functional medicine expert Mark Hyman, MD. “When the liver is working well, you feel good. Your metabolism is humming, your brain is sharp, your blood sugar and hormones are well balanced, you sleep well.”
But doing all these jobs can take a toll on the organ. “The liver tends to get tired with age, especially if you’re stressed or carrying excess fat,” explains Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a nutritionist and physician at the National Institutes of Health. “You can think of it as a partially clogged drain: It’s still working, but at a much slower pace.”
And when the liver cannot keep up with its fat-burning functions, the fat gets stuck in the organ. The result: fatty liver, a condition that affects up to 80% of women over 40, according to nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD. But can fatty liver cause weight gain? Experts say the answer is a resounding “yes.”
How fatty liver causes weight gain
“Every time you develop liver fat, your metabolism will slow down,” explains Taz Bhatia, MD. “Fat impairs the liver’s metabolic and detoxification functions, which in turn consume physical and mental energy and trigger weight gain.” Additionally, fatty liver doubles down on a fat storage process known as de novo lipogenesis, according to experts at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center. The result: Findings in the journal Medicine reveal that when fat accumulates in the liver, belly fat increases with 113 per cent. The good news is that removing the fat clogging your liver optimizes your metabolism increase fat burning by as much as 400%, say researchers reporting in the journal Cell metabolism.
The benefits of a healthy liver
Cleansing fat from your liver does more than speed up weight loss. When your liver is free of clogging fat, the organ’s ability to keep a lid on cholesterol is optimized. This reduces atherosclerosis, a condition that occurs when fatty plaques come off the arteries. The result according to a study in World Journal of Gastroenterology: Risk of heart disease falls by 76 per cent. What’s more, results in the record Oncotarget implies risk of stroke falls by up to 62 per cent.
Lowering the fat levels in your liver also reduces inflammation in the organ, increasing its sensitivity to the hormone insulin. And research in Diabetes care found that this allows the liver to process glucose more efficiently, lowering the odds of develop diabetes with 55%. (Click on to find the simple lifestyle adjustments that help reverse prediabetes.)
Since inflammation produced by fatty liver can cause production of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin to stagger, cutting liver fat also lifts your mood. Actually a study in Frontiers in medicine suggests that foiling of fatty liver reduces the risk of anxiety and blue mood up to 59%. And in another happy side effect, results in the journal Gut suggest a leaner liver sends the energy level soaring with 85%.
The best ways to slim your liver – and burn fat faster
Reversing fatty liver doesn’t have to involve hard work or deprivation. In fact, these “skinny liver” strategies are as easy as they are entertaining.
Dig into scrambled eggs for breakfast
Two eggs provide 58% of choline you need every day. That’s key, as results from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reveal that correction lack of nutrients (which affects 92% of women) can reverse fatty liver within 30 days. Also smart: Choose eggs enriched with omega-3 fatty acids when it is possible. The friendly fatty acids keep liver-clogging fats called triglycerides at bay. And in a study in the journal Clinical nutrition ESPEN those increased their omega-3 intake (people took 2,000 mg of omega-3 daily) significantly lowered their liver fat levels in 12 weeks. Tip: Consider Eggland’s Best Eggs, which contain twice as many omega-3 fatty acids like regular eggs.
Pour yourself another cup of coffee
Do you love lingering over another cup of java on lazy mornings? So does your liver! A study in Journal of Nutritional Sciences suggests sipping 2 cups of coffee daily increases the liver’s ability to burn stored fat by 233%. And in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, people who drank 2 to 3 cups of coffee daily lowered their odds of developing fatty liver by 78%. Experts explain that coffee compounds such as caffeine and chlorogenic acid activate genes that optimize fat breakdown in the body.
Season food with sesame oil
Enjoys 2 tbsp. of nutty taste sesame oil in salad dressings, stir-fry and noodle dishes daily can reverse fatty liver in as little as 12 weeks, according to a study in International Journal of Clinical Practice. Credit goes to nutrients like vitamin E and lecithin, which protects the liver from damage that triggers fat deposition. (Click on to discover more benefits of sesame oil.)
Put in a tuna melt or chicken tetrazzini
Only 3 oz. of chicken or about half a can of tuna boast 12 mg. of a B vitamin known as niacin. And a study in Scientific reports reveals to increase your daily niacin intake with that amount lowers liver fat by 37%. The reason: Niacin dulls the effect diacylglycerol acyltransferase 2, an amino acid that stimulates fat formation in the body. (Sardines boast about 7 mg of niacin per serving: Click on to learn how sardines can speed up weight loss.)
Give green tea a spicy kick
Compounds in ginger has a strong ability to increase the activity of enzymes that fight fat build-up, say researchers reporting in Hepatitis Monthly. In their study, people who added 2 grams (about a heaping teaspoon) of the spice to their daily diet experienced liver fat reductions that were 372% greater than people who did not enjoy the spice. Ginger is a tasty addition to smoothies, rice dishes and marinades. (Click on to learn more health benefits of ginger.)
But for extra anti-fat help, try stirring it into green tea: Catechthe other in the brew help the body convert fat into fuel. And in a study in International Journal of Molecular Medicinesipping three cups of catechin-rich green tea daily for 12 weeks spurred on significant reductions in liver fat. Plus, participants who drank the brew lost 322% more weight than their counterparts who sipped a “fake” tea-flavored beverage.
Take Fido for an afternoon walk
Go ahead and put your chores aside to meander around the block or take your dog for a walk. Getting 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily triggers breakdown of fat in the liver. This leaves the body 33% “leaner” within 16 weeks, say researchers reporting in the journal Hepatology. And if you prefer to scale back a little from time to time, permission is granted: According to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine, walking slims your liver as effective as strenuous exercise. Bonus: People who walked for 150 minutes weekly lost over 4 pounds and nearly an inch from their waists in 6 months. (Click through to find walking accessories that help you burn more fat every time.)
Fry spaghetti sauce for dinner
Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, a compound that slows down the overactivity of immune cells that can cause the liver to store fat. Actual results in the journal Antioxidants suggest drinking a cup tomato juice daily lowers body fat levels by 55% in 10 weeks. Do you prefer tomato soup or sauce instead? Go ahead and enjoy! Cornell researchers found heat increases the release of lycopene from tomatoes, making cooked tomato products star sources of the compound. (Click through to see simple trick to peel tomatoes in seconds.)
Add fresh garlic to your favorite dishes
A connection called allicin found in the tasty herb has a powerful ability to flush fat out of your liver. Actually a study in the journal Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity suggests enjoying one clove of garlic daily delivers an allicin dose that lowers the fat content in the organ by as much as 61% in 15 weeks. Tip: Let crushed or minced garlic rest for 10 minutes before adding to recipes. According to Penn State investigators, it does releases an enzyme in the herb that optimizes its allicin content.
Relax with a glass of red wine
While it seems counterintuitive, sip a glass of wine (about 4 oz.) daily reduces the risk of fatty liver by 50%, according to researchers at the University of California San Diego, reporting in the journal Hepatology. Experts explain polyphenol compounds in wine protect against cell damage that triggers fat accumulation in the liver. For the best liver cleansing benefits, reach for red wine. Found in Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry propose ellagic acid it contains increases fat burning in the liver by 40%. (Click through to find out all the ways that a glass of wine with dinner can help your health.)
Sync into sleep with a soothing bleed
Snoozes for seven hours every night can reduce your risk of fatty liver by 31%. These are the words of scientists reporting in the journal Fat facts. The reason: Skimping on sleep impairs the liver’s ability to process blood sugar-balancing insulin. This causes the body to store the blood sugar as fat. For a soothing way to get more zzz’s, soak your feet in warm water for 20 minutes before bed. Researchers reporting in Journal of Caring Science found one hot foot bath helped people drift off 66% faster and reduced nighttime awakenings by 33%.
Read on for more ways to protect your liver:
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your doctor before following a treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s world.