Carbohydrates And Sugars: How Bad Are They For The Liver?
Not only your teeth can be damaged because of too much sugar, but your liver can damage too. Your liver produces fat, and does so using only one type of sugar – fructose – and required only in very limited amounts. Too much consumption of sugars may contribute to many liver diseases.
How Much of the Carbohydrates Are Metabolized By The Liver?
Fructose, glucose, and galactose are three types of simple sugars. Some natural sources of fructose include honey, vegetables, and fruits. Today, many food products like sugary beverages, candies, and bread are made using high fructose corn syrup, which can damage the liver.
Fructose can only be metabolized with the liver, which breaks it down. It is recommended to consume fructose in a safe amount that does not damage your liver. Only 25-40 grams of fructose is required, and fructose higher than 40 grams cannot be metabolized by the liver (1).
What Does Extra Sugar Do To Your Liver?
When you consume a high amount of sugars, these are converted into fats. Fats start accumulating in the liver, contributing to a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). According to a study, it was reported that a 27% increase in liver fat and a 2% increase in body weight was observed in those who consumed additional 1000 calories of sugars for several weeks (2).
If you continue the consumption of sugars, the fatty liver disease can further progress to this more severe form, called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. This condition gradually cuts off blood supply to the liver along with inflammation and scarring (3).
Long-term use of refined sugars also leads to cirrhosis, also called irreversible scarring of the liver.
What Should You Do To Protect Your Liver?
You can protect your liver from many diseases by replacing high glycemic foods with low glycemic foods.
Cut Back On Sugar:
Cutting excessive sugars from your diet is a great way to preserve liver function. Processed foods like pastries, sugary beverages, and white & brown rice. Eating too much sugar also increases your risk of many diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Eat Complex Carbohydrates:
You don’t have to completely cut back on carbohydrates and sugars because your body needs glucose. You can get carbohydrates from natural sources – complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates have high fiber content and essential nutrients that are vital for your liver function and metabolism.
You can get complex carbohydrates from:
- Whole oats
- Whole wheat pasta and bread
- Wild rice
- Pompili S, Vetuschi A, Gaudio E, Tessitore A, Capelli R, Alesse E, et al. Long-term abuse of a high-carbohydrate diet is as harmful as a high-fat diet for development and progression of liver injury in a mouse model of NAFLD/NASH. Nutrition. 2020 Jul 1;75–76:110782.
- How Refined Sugar Can Damage Your Liver [Internet]. Amsety. 2018 [cited 2021 Jul 23]. Available from: https://www.amsety.com/livermatters/what-to-avoid/refined-sugar-can-damage-liver/
- Brunt EM. Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis. Semin Liver Dis. 2004 Jan;24(1):3–20.