IIT Mandi researchers crack code of excess sugar intake causing fatty liver disease

Recently a team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mandi, has unravelled the molecular mechanism by which excess sugar consumption causes fatty liver disease.

                    According to the team, the research will prompt the public to reduce sugar intake to stop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in its early stages. The research team claimed that unravelling the molecular link between sugar and fat accumulation in the liver is key to developing therapeutics for the disease.


The liver is the largest solid organ and the largest gland in the human body. It carries out over 500 essential tasks.

Classed as part of the digestive system, the roles of the liver include detoxification, protein synthesis, and the production of chemicals that help digest food.

NAFLD is a medical condition in which excess fat deposits in the liver. The disease starts silently, with no overt symptoms for as long as two decades. If left untreated, the excess fat can irritate the liver cells, resulting in scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). In advanced cases, it can also lead to liver cancer.

              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 NAFLD is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH causes the liver to swell and become damaged.

The major functions of the liver include:

  • Bile production: Bile helps the small intestine break down and absorb fats, cholesterol, and some vitamins. Bile consists of bile salts, cholesterol, bilirubin, electrolytes, and water.
  • Absorbing and metabolizing bilirubin: Bilirubin is formed by the breakdown of hemoglobin. The iron released from hemoglobin is stored in the liver or bone marrow and used to make the next generation of blood cells.
  • Supporting blood clots: Vitamin K is necessary for the creation of certain coagulants that help clot the blood. Bile is essential for vitamin K absorption and is created in the liver. If the liver does not produce enough bile, clotting factors cannot be produced.
  • Fat metabolization: Bile breaks down fats and makes them easier to digest.
  • Metabolizing carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are stored in the liver, where they are broken down into glucose and siphoned into the bloodstream to maintain normal glucose levels. They are stored as glycogen and released whenever a quick burst of energy is needed.
  • Vitamin and mineral storage: The liver stores vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12. It keeps significant amounts of these vitamins stored. In some cases, several years’ worth of vitamins is held as a backup. The liver stores iron from hemoglobin in the form of ferritin, ready to make new red blood cells. The liver also stores and releases copper.
  • Helps metabolize proteins: Bile helps break down proteins for digestion.
  • Filters the blood: The liver filters and removes compounds from the body, including hormones, such as estrogen and aldosterone, and compounds from outside the body, including alcohol and other drugs.
  • Immunological function: The liver is part of the mononuclear phagocyte system. It contains high numbers of Kupffer cells that are involved in immune activity. These cells destroy any disease-causing agents that might enter the liver through the gut.
  • Production of albumin: Albumin is the most common protein in blood serum. It transports fatty acids and steroid hormones to help maintain the correct pressure and prevent the leaking of blood vessels.
  • Synthesis of angiotensinogen: This hormone raises blood pressure by narrowing the blood vessels when alerted by production of an enzyme called renin in the kidneys.

Liver disease doesn’t usually cause any obvious signs or symptoms until it is fairly advanced and the liver is damaged. At this stage, possible symptoms are loss of appetite, weight loss and jaundice.

Tips for Liver Cleansing

  • Eat garlic, grapefruit, carrot, green leafy vegetables, apple and walnuts
  • Use olive oil
  • Take lemon and lime juice and green tea
  • Prefer alternative grains (Quinoa, Millet and Buckwheat)
  • Add cruciferous vegetables (Cabbage, Broccoli and Cauliflower)
  • Use turmeric in food

To keep your liver healthy, follow a healthy lifestyle

Eat healthy and balanced diet and exercise regularly to keep your liver healthy.

  • Eat foods from all the food groups: grains, protein, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and fats
  • Eat foods that have lot of fibres such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, rice and cereals

Say NO to Alcohol, Smoking and Drugs: Alcohol, Smoking and Drugs can damage or destroy liver cells. Even don’t be target of passive smoking.

Consult your doctor before starting any medication: When medicines are taken incorrectly or in wrong combination, then liver can be damaged easily.

Take care with toxic chemicals: Chemicals such as aerosol and cleaning products and insecticides, produces toxic substances that can injure liver cells.

Maintain your weight: Obesity can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Prevent hepatitis to protect your liver

Hepatitis is a term used to describe inflammation (swelling) of the liver. It can be caused due to viral infection or when liver is exposed to harmful substances such as alcohol. Hepatitis may occur with limited or no symptoms, but often leads to jaundice, anorexia (poor appetite) and malaise. Hepatitis is of 2 types: acute and chronic.


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