Fatty liver disease occurs when excessive fat builds up in the cells of the liver and makes up 5 to 10 percent of the total weight of the organ. Conditions such as alcohol abuse, diabetes, high blood cholesterol levels and obesity increase the risk of fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is a silent condition with mild and vague symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss and weakness. Alcohol abstinence, healthy diet, exercise and medications may help reverse the condition. Certain supplements and herbs such as turmeric may also help manage the condition.
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Turmeric is a characteristic, yellow powder that is obtained through boiling and drying the roots and rhizomes of the perennial turmeric or Curcuma longa plant. An antioxidant compound known as curcumin is responsible for the medicinal value of turmeric and has been used traditionally to treat a variety of conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, ulcers, heart disease and certain types of cancers. The supplements are available at most natural food stores as capsules, fluid extracts and tinctures. Talk to your doctor to determine a dose that is right for you because it may vary depending on your age, health history and condition under treatment.
Fatty Liver Disease
Turmeric supplementation helps prevent high cholesterol levels in the blood and reduces the risk of fatty liver disease by regulating the enzymes responsible for cholesterol metabolism in laboratory animals fed on high-fat diet, according to a study published in the April 2011 issue of the “Journal of Food Science.” Similar results may be seen in actual clinical trials as well. However, more research is needed to prove these benefits conclusively in humans. Another study in a 2008 issue of the journal “China Pharmaceuticals” reaffirms that turmeric inhibits the formation of fatty liver disease in animal models. Dr. P. N. Ravindran, author of the book “Turmeric,” also recommends curcumin or turmeric to lower the pathological and biochemical changes that alcohol causes; this then helps prevent alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Turmeric is considered to be safe for most adults, although prolonged use of high doses of the spice may lead to indigestion, nausea and diarrhea. The supplements may also enhance the activity of anti-diabetic medications and cause very low blood sugar levels. They also interfere with certain blood-thinning and antacid medications as well.
You must consult a doctor before using turmeric to treat fatty liver diseases. Remember that the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, does not regulate the turmeric supplements sold in the United States. However, some manufacturers may voluntarily submit to United States Pharmacopeial Convention safety tests and get the USP logo upon approval. If you do not see the USP logo, talk to the pharmacist to ensure the safety and efficacy of the product.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Turmeric
- "Journal of Food Science"; Attenuation of Fatty Liver and Prevention of Hypercholesterolemia by Extract of Curcuma longa through Regulating the Expression of CYP7A1, LDL-Receptor, HO-1, and HMG-CoA Reductase; Wing-Fat Yiu, et al.; April 2011
- "China Pharmaceuticals"; Experimental Study of Effects of Curcumin Solid Dispersion Preparation on Fatty Liver in Rats; Zhang Yu, et al.; 2008
- "Turmeric"; P. N. Ravindran, et al.; 2007