HOW NOT TO DIE – BOOK REVIEW
I have just read this book and it has really made me stop and think about the food I eat.
In How Not to Die, Dr Michael Gregor examines the top causes of premature death for heart disease , cancers, diabetes and more – and explains how nutritional and lifestyle interventions can sometimes trump prescription pills and other pharmaceutical and surgical approaches, freeing us to enjoy better health.
It’s a very BIG book with a HUGE reference section. Every month I’m going to try and pick out the key points for each section and I highly recommend reading the book for yourself. Prevention is better than cure. I am not advising anyone to follow the suggestions in the book, i’m just passing on the information.
8. HOW NOT TO DIE FROM LIVER DISEASES
You can make do with one kidney and survive without a spleen or gallbladder. But you can’t live without a liver, the body’s largest internal organ.
The liver first and foremost acts as a barrier to keep unwanted things out of your bloodstream. Whatever you absorb through your digestive tract isn’t immediately transported around the body. The blood from your intestines first goes straight to the liver, where nutrients are metabolised and toxins are neutralised. Therefore what you eat plays a critical role in liver health and disease.
Liver dysfunction can run in families, like the iron-overload disease hemochromatosis.
It can be caused by infections that can lead to liver cancer, or it can stem from drugs. The most common causes, however, are food and drink: fatty liver disease and alcoholic liver disease.
Alcoholic Liver Disease
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to an accumulation of fat in the liver which can cause inflammation and result in liver scarring and, eventually, liver failure.
The Government class excessive drinking as:
men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
Progression of the disease can usually be halted by stopping drinking, but sometimes its too late.
Heavy alcohol consumption can cause a fatty liver in less than three weeks, but it usually resolves within four to six weeks after stopping drinking. But in 5-15 percent of cases the disease continues to progress, and the liver starts to scar despite alcohol cessation.
Once alcohol-induced hepatitis (liver inflammation) is diagnosed, three year survival rates can be as high as 90% amongst people who stop drinking after diagnosis. But as many as 18% go on to develop cirrhosis.
The best strategy to avoid alcoholic liver disease is to not drink so much in the first place.
Nonalcoholic Liver Disease
The most common cause of a fatty liver is not alcohol but non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Studies have been carried out on eating fast food meals every day for 7 days and their link to an increase in weight, blood pressure and liver enzymes. The liver function test results became pathological for over 75% of the volunteers.
Like alcoholic fatty liver , NAFLD starts with a buildup of fat deposits in the liver that cause no symptoms. In rare cases this can lead to inflammation and, over years, end up scarring the liver into a state of cirrhosis, resulting in liver cancer, liver failure and even death.
Fast food is so effective at instigating the disease because NAFLD is associated with the intake of fizzy drinks and meat. Animal fats cause more disease than plant fats. The Mediterranean diet has been associated with less severe fatty liver disease even though its not typically low fat.
NAFLD may also be caused by cholesterol overload. The dietary cholesterol in eggs, meats and dairy can become oxidised and then set off a chain reaction that results in excess fat in the liver.
Another common cause of liver disease is viral hepatitis, which is triggered by one or more of 5 viruses: hepatitis A, B, C, D or E.
Hepatitis A is spread primarily through food or water that is tainted with contaminated feces. It can be prevented by vaccination, avoiding raw & undercooked shellfish and washing your hands after using the toilet or changing nappies.
Hepatitis B virus is blood-borne and is transmitted sexually. Vaccine is available.
Hepatitis D virus infection can only occur in someone who is already infected with hep B.
Hepatitis C has no vaccine available and is the most dreaded of liver viruses. Exposure can lead to a chronic infection that, over decades, can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. Hepatitis C is now the leading cause of liver transplants. Hep C is transmitted via blood, usually through sharing needles.
Preventing Hepatitis E Through Diet
Pork has been linked to the hepatitis E virus (HEV). The relationship between national pork per capita consumption and deaths from liver disease correlates as tightly as per capita alcohol consumption and liver fatalities.
Viruses are usually deactivated by cooking but there is always the problem of cross-contaminating your hands or kitchen surfaces whilst handling raw meat. Once food is in the oven most foodborne pathogens are destroyed by cooking the meat to proper internal cooking temperatures.
Though most people who develop Hepatitis E recover completely, it can be deadly for pregnant women.
Protecting the liver at breakfast
Specific plant foods have been found to be protective of the liver:
OATMEAL – wholegrains have been associated with reducing a range of chronic diseases.
BERRIES/GRAPES/CRANBERRY/PLUMS/RED CABBAGE – anthocyanins, a plant compound found in these red fruits and vegetables, have been found to prevent fat accumulation in human liver cells in in vitro studies.
COFFEE – alcohol consumption has been associated with liver inflammation. Coffee consumption has been associated with less liver inflammation.
Liver cancers are amongst the most avoidable cancers, through hepatitis B vaccination, control of hepatitis C transmission, and reduction of alcohol consumption. These three measures could, in principle, wipe out 90 % of liver cancers worldwide.
With liver disease prevention is key.