Liver Disease: The Next Epidemic

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Liver Disease: The Next Epidemic

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By Jean-Marc Sobczyk, MD, ND

Do you have a fatty liver?

If you are like me you will answer: “of course not!” – I am healthy, active, and I don’t take any medications. These are all excellent deterrents, but sometimes still are not enough to prevent liver disease.

People who are overweight, diabetic, inactive or with a poor diet are more likely to have what we call Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is a reversible condition if it is diagnosed early and has not led to significant liver damage (fibrosis and cirrhosis). Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the build-up 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 more severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis causes the liver to swell and become damaged. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis tends to develop in people who are overweight or obese, have diabetes, and high cholesterol or high triglycerides. However, some people have non-alcoholic steatohepatitis even if they do not have any risk factors!

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis in adults in the United States. Up to 25% of adults with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis may have cirrhosis.

Did you know that fatty liver Disease is the fastest growing condition in the world?

A diet high in high fructose corn syrup, obesity, metabolic syndrome (defined as a cluster of conditions: increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels) are all contributors to fatty liver disease.

There is one key factor often forgotten which may explain why healthy individuals might also be at risk. If you have a PEMT mutation, a slower PEMT (phosphatidylethanolamine methyltransferase) enzyme then you are also at increased risk to develop NAFLD. PEMT is a gene coding for an enzyme important for the synthesis of the nutrient phosphatidylcholine (PC). Phosphatidylcholine is the most abundant phospholipid in humans and an important piece of each of our cells’ membranes.

A slow PEMT is involved in the process of fat accumulation in the liver. PC is needed in the liver to help packing fat (triglycerides) in tiny vesicles (VLDL; you can see it reported in your lipids profile when you do a blood test at your physician’s office). Every cell in your body depends on PC to be produced in sufficient amounts to stay healthy.

Everyday more than 220 billion cells need to be replaced in our body. PEMT’s job is to help repair and regenerate our cells. Again, PC is a critical component of our cell membranes and helps our cells to function at their optimal level. As mentioned above PEMT helps package fat in the VLDL and export them outside the liver. Without sufficient amounts of PC produced, your body cannot export fat, and it starts to accumulate in the liver.

It is also important to note that men and menopaused women (and pregnant women) are at a higher risk of fatty liver. Estrogens produced by the ovaries stimulate PEMT activity and reduce risk of choline deficiency in women.

How to supplement our diet with choline to support a weak PEMT enzyme?

Individuals with PEMT mutations should add choline-rich foods to their diet. Liver, eggs, wheatgerm, broccoli, organic soymilk, organic tofu, and quinoa are particularly reliable sources.

How to get tested for PEMT?  

I recommend a 23&Me DNA test. This is an inexpensive test and it provides a ton of useful information.

If we do not take care of this growing health issue now, it is estimated that in 2050 one million patients will need a liver transplant. This could be the next major health crisis.

Ask your doctor about how to test for these genetic mutations. Dr. Jean-Marc Sobczyk, MD, ND is a licensed naturopathic doctor in California with extensive training in nutrition and expertise in Nutrigenomics and Genetic Testing. He will guide you and help you implementing the necessary changes to optimize and dramatically change the potential of your children. He treats children and adults at the Akasha Center for Integrative medicine. Schedule a 10 minutes complimentary visit with him today.

Dr. Jean Marc Sobczyk, MD, ND is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at 310-451-8880 or emailing us at info@akashacenter.com.

Sources: World health organization, Liverfoundation.org

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