Fasting to improve liver health has been a mysterious factor for interventions with liver disease, but it wasn’t clear exactly why fasting had this effect. Based on current research in animals, scientists believe they understand some of the mechanisms behind intermittent fasting and why seems beneficial for our livers.
Researchers from the University of Sydney studied fatty acid metabolism in mice who were fasted every-other-day. Popular intermittent fasting methods include the 16-8 diet in which people fast 16 hours a day followed by a period of eating during an 8-hr window. Others have found success in the one-meal-a-day method to improve overall health. Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, but it might be worth discussing with your doctor if you have a liver condition.
The researchers identified an interaction with a regulator protein which is responsible for metabolic functions. This protein, HNF4-alpha, was inhibited when mice were fasted every other day. When the protein was inhibited, it affected metabolic functions such as decreasing bile synthesis and decreasing the proteins which cause inflammation.
In addition, the way that the body metabolized fatty acids was altered in the liver, including pathways which enhanced fatty acid oxidation. Fatty acid metabolism is tied to insulin, and the authors of the study are hopeful that new methods for controlling glucose tolerance and diabetes can be developed with the help of blocking the HNF4-alpha protein.
Eventually, it may be possible to reproduce these effects by the delivery of small molecules that cause the same local liver effects and its downstream systemic effects without having to fast every other day. It adds more to an ever-growing body of evidence in reasons why restricting food for hours or days at a time can improve the health of some individuals, but it doesn't work for everyone. Discuss your nutritional plan with a qualified healthcare practitioner before you make any big changes to your diet.
To give your liver a boost, don’t forget about the hard work it does to synthesize the master antioxidant, Glutathione! In addition to making the glutathione for the rest of the body, the liver depends on antioxidants to help reduce the oxidative damage that comes from environmental toxins, alcohol, and medications.
Try this Glutathione complex, complete with Milk Thistle extract (an herbal liver protectant) and Alpha Lipoic Acid (another great antioxidant) to keep your liver nourished and productive!
Hatchwell et al., “Multi-omics Analysis of the Intermittent
Fasting Response in Mice Identifies
an Unexpected Role for HNF4a“. 2020, Cell Reports 30, 3566–3582
March 10, 2020 ª 2020 The Author(s).
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