Good New Year’s resolutions often include a plan to eat more fruit. However, if you rely too much on wellness drinks, smoothies, and fruit juices, you can easily end up with problems. The fructose in these drinks passes from the small intestine directly into the liver, warns a German specialist association. The result can be a fatty liver.
Fructose – the sugar found in fruits and honey, for example, but in smaller quantities in vegetables – is often considered the healthy alternative to household sugar. “All types of sugar find their way into the liver when consumed in excess and can therefore contribute to a fatty liver, but fructose increases the formation of new fat to a particularly high degree – 15 times more than glucose,” the German Society for Gastroenterology, Digestive and Metabolic Diseases (DGVS) recently quoted Ali Canbay, Clinic Director of the Medical Clinic at the University Hospital of Ruhr University Bochum. Fructose is a monosaccharide and has a higher sweetening value than household sugar. The latter is a disaccharide and consists of two types of sugar.
The negative effect is presumably because the liver plays an important role in processing fructose and, under certain disease conditions, produces more enzymes that break down fructose and produce fat. The increased fat production in the liver can not only lead to fat deposits there. Still, it can also impair other metabolic processes such as beta cell function, insulin production and insulin sensitivity.
Fatty liver is the most common liver disease that can lead to chronic inflammation of the organ. This is known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). If left untreated, liver disease can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. “The liver suffers silently for a long time. Complaints in the form of pain or yellowing of the eyes and skin usually only become apparent when the liver is already severely damaged,” added Heiner Wedemeyer, President of the DGVS from Hanover. In Germany, around a third of the population probably has a fatty liver, which is often accompanied by other diseases – for example, obesity as well as sugar and metabolic disorders.
“A healthy and balanced Mediterranean diet can help to combat fat deposits in the liver, so we very much welcome the fact that the New Year is accompanied by many people making good resolutions regarding their diet,” said Birgit Terjung, Medical Director of the GFO Clinics Bonn. The only thing that needs to be ensured is that too much fruit does not lead to undesirable results. “If five oranges go into a freshly squeezed orange juice or smoothies consisting of several hundred grams of fruit, you quickly exceed the amount of fructose recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) of 25 grams per meal,” says the expert. She recommends two portions of fruit daily, which should be eaten unprocessed and chewed well.
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