There’s an enormous buzz about the liver in the world of nutrition and its role in multiple areas of health — the number of liver detox and liver cleanse programs and supplements on the market is proof of that.
Vitamin deficiencies can cause an array of problems, so it’s crucial to eat a well-balanced diet to improve liver function. Still, there’s presently no solid scientific proof that any vitamins for the liver play a well-defined role in treating or preventing diseases.
Love Your Liver
Weighing in at a little over 3 pounds, approx size of a football, your liver is the 2nd largest organ in your body, second only to your skin. As reported by Michigan Health, the liver contains as much as thirteen percent of the body’s blood supply, and it also plays a critical role in digestion .
Responsible for over 500 functions that maintain your health, the liver is arguably the most robust working organ in your body. Key among the liver’s functions are:
Filtering all ingested substances — medications, food, alcohol, — for toxins and nutrients, storing nutrients or sending them out into the bloodstream, and getting rid of toxic substances through stool or urine.
Regulating energy by eliminating sugar from the blood and storing it as glycogen, then converting into glucose. When blood sugar reduces, the liver releases some stored glucose into the bloodstream to be used by cells .
Making cholesterol, breaking down fats, converting excess carbohydrate and protein, and storing them for future use and producing bile, by which toxins and waste products are flushed out of the body.
Recycling blood in adult bodies and supplying blood during fetal development. It also breaks down weakened and damaged blood cells and aids in releasing plasma proteins that are critical for blood to clot.
Liver disease and injury can have a profound impact on overall health, so keeping your liver in tip-top shape is crucial. Some vitamin deficiencies have been implicated in disorders of the liver, although their exact roles aren’t fully understood.
Vitamin D and NAFLD
Also called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin synthesized by the skin when exposed to the sun’s UV rays. It’s also present in some foods naturally, incorporated to others, and available in supplement form.
But vitamin D in any way is biologically inactive, and it should be converted firstly by the liver and then by the kidneys into a form the body can utilize .
According to a September 2017 review presented in the journal Nutrients, vitamin D deficiency happens in epidemic proportions in industrialized nations due to inadequate dietary intake and lack of sun exposure.
Also common — occurring in over seventy percent of patients with type 2 diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome — is NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) .
This condition is characterized by a pileup of fats in the liver that is non- alcoholic. The disease may progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a more severe condition marked by liver inflammation and potentially permanent liver damage.
Antioxidant Vitamin E
Vitamin E is Another fat-soluble nutrient and is a powerful antioxidant that can protect cells from free radical damage. As reported by the NIH (National Institutes of Health), free radicals are molecules with one or more unpaired electrons that can play a role in the development of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Studies show that vitamin E can also play an essential role in the progression and development of NAFLD .
According to a paper presented in the January 2018 edition of the journal Antioxidants, vitamin E’s antioxidant activity has been shown to lower oxidative stress levels in NAFLD.
Researchers of the review say that the development of NAFLD is not fully understood. Still, oxidative stress appears to contribute significantly to the liver cell damage seen in the disorder.
Other Vitamins for Liver Health
Multiple roles of vitamins C, B12, and folate in the protection and promotion against liver diseases have been highlighted in scientific journals. A research paper published in December 2014 issue of Nutrients suggests that vitamin C deficiency may also be implicated in the development of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and NAFLD.
Similar to vitamin E, vitamin C is an antioxidant nutrient that can combat oxidative damage from free radicals. Similar to vitamin E, vitamin C deficiency has been shown to be more prevalent in patients of NAFLD.
Deficiencies in the water-soluble vitamin folate and B12 were correlated with the severity of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis in a study published in the April 2018 issue of Nutrients.
Another research published in the March 2017 issue of the journal Yonago Acto Medica concluded that falsely elevated levels of B12 were associated with poor prognosis and increased severity in chronic viral liver disease patients.
The researchers hypothesize that the pseudo high blood levels may have been due to reduced storage of the nutrient in the liver, caused by the liver releasing excessively into the blood. Because of B12’s liver-protective effects, low levels in the liver intensified liver damage.
[Also Read: Essential Nutrients For liver ]
Should You Take a Supplement?
All of the studies and reviews cited here emphasize that vitamin therapy still cannot be confidently recommended for the prevention or treatment of liver diseases until more large-scale, controlled trials have been undertaken. Unless your physician has prescribed a vitamin supplement to treat a particular disorder, don’t rely on any beneficial effects.
High-dose vitamin supplements often are at the top with liver detox supplements and liver cleanses to improve liver function. There’s not adequate evidence to show that they offer any additional benefits unless there is an outstanding deficiency. When taken in extremely high amounts, some vitamins can even damage the liver.
According to the NIH (National Institute of Health’s) LiverTox database, excessive intakes of the vitamin B niacin and A vitamin can be specifically harmful.
Liver injury can happen when these vitamins are taken in excessive doses — 100 to 400 times the recommended daily intake (RDI) of niacin, which is 14 to 16 milligrams per day, and ten times the RDI for vitamin A, which is 700 to 900 micrograms daily.
That said, it is essential to get adequate of these nutrients from your diet. Deficiency can cause not only potential liver disease and damage but also an array of other health issues.
Typically, eating a well-balanced diet, including plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy, lean meats, healthy fats, and whole grains, can offer all the liver-strengthening nutrients you need.
[Also Read: Essential Liver Cleanse Supplements]
If your style of living is in a way that vitamin D deficiency may be a problem, consult your physician to see if you should take a supplement and at what dose. For your liver to work efficiently, it requires specific nutrients and vitamins through supplements or from your diet.