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Does the liver play a role in weight control?

The liver is your largest internal organ, but you may not realise it is also the major fat burning organ in your body. How well your liver functions has an enormous bearing on your metabolic rate and your energy level.

The liver is definitely a busy organ; it is responsible for a large number of important functions that affect your overall wellbeing and quality of life. The liver can burn fat or create fat out of glucose or protein. A healthy liver is also able to pump excess fat out of the body via the gallbladder and bowel.

The liver is also responsible for metabolising hormones; it can break down excess hormones your body no longer requires and it is responsible for activating other hormones involved in metabolism.

If the liver filter is healthy, it allows dietary cholesterol to be shunted into the liver for metabolism or excretion through the bile. A healthy liver filter is essential to properly regulate blood cholesterol levels. Poor liver function may increase your chances of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

If the liver does not regulate fat metabolism efficiently, weight gain tends to occur around the abdominal area and a protuberant abdomen (pot belly) will develop. This is not good for the waistline! Another sign can be a roll of fat around the upper abdomen, which I call the “liver roll.” This is often a sign of a fatty liver. It can be almost impossible to lose this abdominal fat until the liver function is improved. Once this is done the liver will start burning fat efficiently again and the weight comes off gradually and without too much effort from you.

It is not necessary to follow a very restrictive low fat, low calorie diet. What is effective in the long term is to eat the correct foods and nutrients for the liver to improve its fat burning function. I explain what these foods are in my book Fatty Liver: You Can Reverse It.

Many middle-aged people with excess fat in the abdominal area have a “fatty liver”. In this condition the liver has stopped burning fat and has turned into a fat storing organ. It becomes enlarged and swollen with greasy deposits of fatty tissue. Those with a fatty liver will not be able to lose weight unless they first improve liver function, with an appropriate diet and a good liver tonic.

If you have a fatty liver it is vital to be patient, as it can take between 3 and 6 months, depending upon the amount of fat deposited in the liver, to remove the excess fat from the liver. After this accumulated liver fat has been removed, weight loss will be much easier.
If you have a very severe case of fatty liver it can take 12 months to lose all of the excessive weight. However, this is very successful in the long term and provides the best chance of restoring your figure and your health.

Fatty liver is common and doctors often tell their patients with this problem not to worry too much because it is not serious. I disagree with this, because if you have a fatty liver, your chances of high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes are significantly higher. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find a fatty liver in adolescents who consume a diet high in processed foods and soda.

If you overload the liver with the wrong type of hormone replacement therapy, hormonal contraceptives, multiple medications, excess alcohol or toxins, the liver’s biochemical pathways will have less energy reserves left over to perform their function of fat metabolism. Thus these things can lead to weight gain.

The liver also plays a vital role in regulating sex hormones in women. A healthy liver will break down excess estrogen and eliminate it via the gallbladder and bowel motions. Women with a sluggish liver typically do not break down estrogen adequately. This can lead to a situation called estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency. In essence there is too much estrogen relative to progesterone in the body.

Excess estrogen promotes weight gain, cellulite and fluid retention on the lower body; typically the hips, thighs and buttocks. This hormone imbalance also promotes premenstrual syndrome and bloating before menstruation. Using a natural progesterone cream can help to correct this imbalance.

The liver plays a vital role in thyroid hormone metabolism. The main thyroid hormone is called T4 and is produced in the thyroid gland. However this is an inactive hormone and it must be converted to its active form, known as T3. The majority of this conversion occurs in the liver. People with a fatty or sluggish liver do not make this conversion easily. This can result in a slowed metabolic rate, fluid retention, constipation, weight gain and other symptoms of an under active thyroid gland.

Selenium is required for this conversion to take place and I have found that many cases of a sluggish thyroid gland can be improved with a selenium supplement. Selenium also helps to increase energy levels and it supports the immune system.

Anyone wishing to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight must pay attention to the health of their liver. You can improve the health of your liver by following the eating principles in my books Fatty Liver: You Can Reverse it and/or The Liver Cleansing Diet and by taking a good quality comprehensive liver tonic such as Livatone Plus, which contains St Mary’s thistle, taurine, selenium and B vitamins.

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.

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