Protect yourself from liver damage with phosphatidylcholine
(NaturalHealth365) Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease – defined as excess fat in the liver in the absence of chronic alcohol abuse – is fast becoming a pandemic in the United States. According to recent research, the national prevalence of NAFLD has soared from 18 percent of the population (in 1991) to an astounding 31 percent in 2012 – and death rates from chronic liver disease are on the rise as well.
Fortunately, a natural nutrient known as phosphatidylcholine is showing the potential to slow and even reverse fatty liver damage, while protecting against damage from a variety of toxins.
In spite of decades of clinical trials demonstrating phosphatidylcholine’s protective effects, this lecithin-like nutrient still seems to be relatively little-known – and underappreciated – by most people.
Essential NEWS: Phosphatidylcholine makes up 65 percent of all cell membranes
In addition to functioning as the body’s major detoxifying organ, the liver also stores vitamins, assists in the absorption of nutrients, secretes hormones and metabolizes body waste and toxins into water-soluble compounds to be eliminated.
Researchers have learned that most of the life-sustaining activities performed by the liver actually occur on the membranes of the parenchymal cells (known as the “workhorses of the liver”).
Phosphatidylcholine – which is produced by the liver – is absolutely essential for the structure and function of these cells. Although the parenchymal cells are normally protected by antioxidants such as glutathione and cysteine, exposure to environmental toxins, viruses and bacteria can deplete these protective enzymes and jeopardize levels of phosphatidylcholine (PC).
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And that’s where the trouble really begins. Protective cell membranes lose their integrity and develop holes, leading to leakage of vital enzymes and, eventually, cell death – which in turn causes inflammatory and necrotic damage to liver tissue.
In order to avoid this scenario, and to continue to carry out its life-sustaining duties, the liver must create new cell membranes – for which PC is a key ingredient.
In a groundbreaking German study conducted in 1973, researchers began to evaluate PC’s therapeutic effects on liver disease in humans – and evidence of PC’s benefits has continued to accumulate ever since.
Phosphatidylcholine can reverse alcoholic liver damage, study says
To conduct the five-year study, the team gave PC daily to 650 subjects with varying degrees of liver damage, then regularly assessed them through biopsies, blood analysis and clinical tests.
Participants’ liver disease ranged from mild to severe – and included fatty degeneration, aggressive inflammation and advanced fibrotic damage.
The subjects were first given PC both orally and intravenously – then were switched to oral supplementation at 450 to 700 mg a day. The results were striking!
Over 50 percent of participants with mild liver damage showed “excellent” improvement – and even experienced reversal of fatty deposits.
In participants with persistent inflammation, PC returned enzyme parameters to normal after 30 days. And, of those with the most severe and aggressive chronic inflammation, more than one-third experienced a benefit.
PC supplementation even benefited 17 percent of those with advanced liver scarring – an impressive finding in light of the fact that some of the participants had failed to benefit in the past from other treatments, including steroid drugs and milk thistle extract.
The impressed researchers concluded that PC was the “best single means” for managing liver damage – quite an endorsement!
Warning: Alcohol strips much-needed PC from cell membranes and triggers the development of a fatty liver
PC seems custom-designed to help protect the body from the harmful effects of ethyl alcohol (the type found in beer, wine and liquor). These damaging effects include damage to mitochondria – the “power centers” of the cells – oxidative stress, antioxidant depletion and inhibition of the liver’s detoxification system.
In addition, alcohol molecules are metabolized to become acetaldehyde (the harmful toxin that is responsible for hangover misery).
Perhaps most alarmingly, alcohol dissolves phosphatidylcholine from the parenchymal cell membranes – jeopardizing their ability to metabolize triglycerides (fat) and setting the stage for inflammation and deposits of fat in the liver.
In fact, so effective is PC at metabolizing lipids that it is used in cosmetic injections to dissolve fat. Clearly, supplementation with PC is a valuable tool in addressing liver dysfunction.
In an article published in Alternative Medicine Review, the author notes that extensive animal studies have shown that PC slows the progression of fatty liver disease and helps reduce liver fibrosis, or scarring. And, the German study is one of many showing that PC’s fat-burning and liver-restoring effects translate into therapeutic benefits for human patients with fatty livers.
Additional studies have shown that 1,000 to 3,000 mg a day of phosphatidylcholine can protect the liver by reducing the leakage of enzymes, decreasing the harmful oxidation of fats, slowing membrane damage and preserving membrane integrity.
A liver “MVP,” phosphatidylcholine also protects against damage from medications, pollutants and viruses
Of course, alcohol is far from the only threat to liver health.
Over-the-counter and prescribed medications – including acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, antibiotics and benzodiazepines – also take a toll on the liver, as does exposure to herbicides, pesticides and electromagnetic radiation from smart phones and laptops.
Animal and clinical studies have shown that PC defends the liver against these, as well. In one study, PC was even found to be effective against Amanita phalloides, the notorious “deathcap” mushroom.
In other research, PC helped to resolve liver damage from hepatitis A and B, while improving general well-being. Note: In 20 percent of the PC-treated patients, the virus was found to be “inactive” – a truly encouraging result!
Support liver health with phosphatidylcholine supplementation
Phosphatidylcholine is produced in the liver, and is also found in some foods – including cage-free eggs, organic soybeans, mustard and sunflower seeds.
Clearly, supplementation could be a wise move for those dealing with fatty liver disease.
Natural healers may recommend dosages in the area of 500 mg to 3,000 mg of phosphatidylcholine a day. Of course, check first with your integrative doctor before supplementing with PC.
As a “bonus tip:” PC is not only highly bioavailable – with about 90 percent absorption over 24 hours – but it also enhances the bioavailability of other nutrients, such as flavonoids, that are taken along with it.
No doubt, researchers are hailing PC as an “effective and safe nutrient for liver damage of all levels of severity.” And, with fatty liver disease becoming rampant in the United States, PC’s ability to reduce and prevent fatty deposits and fibrosis is certainly good news.
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Sources for this article include: