Man, I' glad I did not read this while treating. Now this is something to chew on.
March 07, 2008 Printer-friendly version
Fast Food Likely to Accelerate Hepatitis C
According to new research from Sweden, grabbing a quick burger and fries is just as harmful to the liver as drinking alcohol. Since liver damage carries a graver risk to those living with Hepatitis C, eating low-fat meals is more important to this population than ever.
by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.
New research from Sweden confirms that eating fast food can cause substantial liver damage. Luckily, the liver is one of our few organs capable of regenerating new, healthy cells. Thus, the injury inflicted from occasionally ordering dinner from a drive-through window can be reversed with a focused effort. Unfortunately, those battling Hepatitis C have a diminished ability to regenerate new liver cells and therefore have a harder time reversing liver damage. This means that the liver cell death incurred from eating the high-fat meals typical of fast food restaurants may be more detrimental to those already living with a chronic liver disease such as Hepatitis C.
The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease in the United States. Accounting for about 15 percent of acute viral hepatitis, 60 to 70 percent of chronic hepatitis and up to 50 percent of cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease and liver cancer, experts estimate that 4.1 million Americans are currently infected with HCV. While many more people live with HCV than die from it, the distinguishing factor between the two is learning how to prevent incurring further liver damage.
The HCV Disadvantage
The progression of liver disease is marked by a greater proportion of liver cell death than the creation of new, healthy liver cells. Due to a buildup of localized scar tissue, the following cascade of events demonstrates why those with HCV are prone to a worsening of their condition:
1. The Hepatitis C virus infects and kills liver cells.
2. In response to liver cell death, the body initiates an immune response, which causes inflammation.
3. In an attempt to limit the spread of infection, the immune system lays down collagen fibers between liver cells. These fibers are the building blocks of scar tissue.
4. Normally, as an infection or injury resolves, the collagen matrix enclosing the injury is dissolved and allows the tissue to return to normal. However, this web of collagen in people with chronic HCV grows more rapidly than it can dissolve.
5. As more collagen accumulates, the resulting scar tissue restricts living liver cells from access to nutrients and oxygen-rich blood.
6. The restricted access to blood causes even more quarantined liver cells to die. As such, HCV progressively scars the liver.
Since people living with HCV have this consistent battle being waged in their liver, they are more vulnerable to toxins that could damage this organ.
The Danger of Fast Food
Many things we breathe, ingest, swallow or otherwise absorb into our bodies pose a threat to the liver. A universally acknowledged cause of chronic liver disease, drinking alcohol is one of the most obvious ways to poison a liver. While most people might not categorize their lunch as toxic, millions of Americans are damaging their liver by eating fast food. A small Swedish study published in the February 2008 edition of the journal Gut found that even a brief fast-food binge combined with too little exercise can induce liver damage.
In this study, 18 slim, healthy participants stuck to a fast food diet, mostly consuming of hamburger meals from popular chains twice a day for four weeks while refraining from exercise. At the end of the experiment, participants not only gained an average of 16 pounds, but blood tests also showed evidence that those eating fast food incurred liver damage.
In the Swedish study, those gorging on fast food meals showed a dramatic increase in alanine aminotransferases (ALT) levels over a very short period of time. An enzyme produced in liver cells, ALT leaks into the bloodstream as liver cells are damaged. A result of liver cell damage, ALT elevations can be caused by any liver disease, hepatic inflammation or toxin.
Previous research has shown that a diet high in fat and calories, the hallmark of greasy, fast food, puts people at greater risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and heart failure. However, this Swedish study shows that doubling caloric intake without adding exercise also puts hepatic health in jeopardy. When excessive calories and fat overloads the liver’s ability to filter the blood, fat builds up in the liver cells and leads to liver damage. Considering that a majority of the study participants developed pathological ALT levels within just one week after eating fast food, this negative impact can occur relatively quickly.
Most people with HCV are aware that drinking alcohol causes liver cell death and can accelerate the severity of their liver disease. However, now their physicians must relay that alcohol is not the only thing they must navigate away from. Since eating a large quantity of high-fat foods (even for a short time period) while refraining from physical activity can damage the liver, people with HCV must avoid this combination. Since harboring the Hepatitis C virus makes recovery from liver damage a great challenge, hepatologists across the globe will be putting greater emphasis on sticking to a healthy, low-fat diet and adhering to an active lifestyle.
Happy you posted this although the evidence highlighted by the study has been around for some time now.
Yes, heavy drinking is not good for the liver, but sometimes I get the feeling that people translate being a non-drinker with a liver healthy lifestyle, while I'm sure more than a few wash their Big Mac and Fries down with their non-alcoholic drink. Eating a diet high in saturated fats, having a high BMI, smoking and not exercising enough are all insults to the liver.
Tonight I'm having wild Salmon, vegetables, some whole wheat Scandanavian crackers and a glass or two of Malbec. The Malbec btw is on the recommendation of my heaptologist who feels it will help my lipid profile. Does anyone think a dinner of steak and fries and a non-alcoholic drink is better for the liver?
BTW pre treatment, I was able to normalize my liver enzymes by adhering to a very low fat diet, the Pritkin diet to be exact. Right now, I'm trying to adhere to a higher (good) fat but lower carb diet -- something in the neighborhood of the South Beach or Zone diet. I'm not a dietician but I think both approaches probably work in their own way. What you don't want is a diet high in saturated fats and carbs. The worst of all worlds and also called the typical American Diet.
Excuse the rant but I'd die for a Big Mac right now instead of the Salmon so I'm using this study as motivation :)
I'll have to admit that I was a junk food junkie in the beginning of treatment and through most of it. The sudden weight loss and depression sent me into a tail spin. I had worked throughout treatment and most of my time was spent on the road in between jobs and had easy excess fast food. I would pack a lunch which most of the time was gone by mid morning and the need to fill the empty spot led me to the burger joints and even then it did not stay with me very long either way and it became a vicious circle. I had it stuck in my head about the riba absorption factor riba and did not consider and thing else and after reading this article I feel very confident about my SVR status even though I now have to reverse what I did during treatment.
I also ate lots of fats during treatment, not only because of riba absorption but because I was only able to eat a very select group of let's call them "comfort" foods. Healthy foods like fish and vegetables made me nauceous even to think about. So I tried to eat healthy before and after treatment but during treatment I ate to survive, meaning I ate whatever I could get down to temper the signficicant weight loss I was having. Ironically, my blood lipids were never better as on this diet and no doubt because the interferon messed big time with my metabolism. Not that I had a choice, but given my cholesterol was around 140 during treatment plus the BMI of almost an anorexic LOL I doubt very much the temporary high fat diet did any harm.
Well, I am glad I read this with two more to go... For me it was to eat whatever I could keep down, and there were some days i just craved a Mickey Dee's or KFC...other days I couldnt eat at all...My doc said eat anything, just do not loose more weight, now that may not have been good for my cholestrol and other things, but it brought me to week 46.... I am hoping that Jim is right ....
Homemade chicken wings, homemade fries, fresh coleslaw and Edwards chocolate cream pie for dessert tonight but usually once a month if that. I did make grilled tilapia last night with a dash of teriyaki and lime juice. Jim is right, the comfort food goes down so much better and I eat to live, not live to eat at this point so whatever appeals to me the most, that's what I eat. I'll deal with aftermath later. My cholestrol has been very low for years and years, maybe because of the liver damage. Pastas are my favorite. Homemade mac & cheese.
I really do cook everyday because hubby is diabetic. We've always eaten lots of chicken, fish and veggies but since tx not so much. I'll get back to the good old days, whether I beat this thing or not because I need to be friendly to my liver.
"wild Salmon, vegetables, some whole wheat Scandanavian crackers and a glass or two of Malbec" No wonder my keyboard won't allow me to scale the alps on the weekend, I've been eat'in Gortons fish sticks...;^)
Jim, it was probably that diet that saved you... Something your body needed to fight the weight loss. Can you imagine even how much weaker you would have been, if you had not eaten that way and lost even more weight? Do you remember how I said in the beginning that I would eat my Riba with a piece of rye bread, butter and French raw milk triple cream cheeses? Well, that was wishful thinking. Did it for 1 week and since I can't even look at butter and those French cheeses. Veggies and fruit are my favorites.
I wonder what makes us all react differently.
Actually I had some m&m's a while ago, they were delicious, but I felt sick afterward. Go figure...
I don't have the energy to grow them these days, even though I have the Easy Green, automatic sprouter. I haven't gotten the spare parts to attach it directly to a water source, so you gotta refill the water yourself and then one gotta throw out the excess water.
Have you tried the shiny black sunflower seeds? Don't get the striped ones, they don't sprout well. Broccoli, garlic, mustard are great on sandwiches and in salad
Being from South Louisiana it is hard to eat healthy.
Not bragging but I have worked all over the country and I believe we have the best tasting food in the nation.
During tx I lost 30 lbs. As far as treatment goes, if I could have got it down I would have bit a turrd if I felt like I could have kept it down.
I have never really had a sweat tooth but I love honey.
Jim with all of the hoopla about the health benefits, I am surprised to hear it can also be bad for us.
All I know about honey is that it's a simple sugar which for many of us -- not everyone -- is bad in that it can raise triglicerides and accelerate the metabolic syndrome.
Some lucky souls seem to be able to eat all the carbs/sweets they want and still have a stellar lipid and metabolic profile. If you're one of those, great. If not -- and I'm not -- then you have to really watch it and eliminating simple sugars should be high on the list. Of course that doesn't mean a dab of honey here or there is bad, and ironically if you take simple sugars with fat it's better than without. Reason being that the fat slows down the absorption of the carb so blood sugar levels are more stable. That's why high premium ice cream is probably better than no-fat ice cream although both are bad.
That said, a lot of docs seem to think that statins and such can take the place of healthy eating. What my cardiologist said was that he wanted to put me on a statin dose so I could eat "normally" (code word for bad American diet :) ) and then if I ate healthy that would be a bonus. For now, I'm not on the statin train but I may have to hop on soon because frankly eating as healthy as I need to eat is not easy. Given the way my lipids react to food, just eating healthy doesn't cut it. I have to eat like a monk.
BTW not used to answering a serious post of yours. That was a serious post wasn't it. LOL.
Really didn't have much of a choice. I was very scared of being pulled off treatment due to weight loss or more accurately wasting. In fact, the only reason I didn't repeat my comfort breakfast for my second meal is the fear that if I repeated it too much I might lose my appetite for those limited foods and then I'd be really stuck. So my second meal was really a hellish experience at times. Sometimes took me an hour or so of meditation until I could conjure up something to get down. And it happened in funny ways. One day I saw a commercial for Lobster Shack or some place like that and all of a sudden I wanted some lobster. Unfortunately, it didn't taste as good as I had hoped so that was it for lobster.
It was so weird because I'm probably the oppostite of a picky eater and in fact love all food -- the good, bad and the ugly. I could always eat anything, anytime, but just not on treatment. At one point my doc discussed both supplemental testosterone and anabolic steroids for weight gain. It got that bad. BTW his first choice was marijuana, but alas, that doesn't agree with me.
LOL, my major down falls were eggs, bacon, scrapple and toast and Red Lobster in the evening once a week, if it was one thing I did not have a problem with it was the shrimp scampi in all that butter sauce and the cheese butter biscuits and sugar! get outta here I am not a sweat kind of guy but that came towards the end of treatment which left me also with high triglycerides 379 down from 499, HDL of 28 and LDL of 85 which is good and rounding it out a VLDL of 74. I’m not sure but the swinging thyroid may have had a lot to do with it. I did not realize at the time but when my hair went straight it always looked greasy and just thought it was because it had thinned out so much. I am glad that I have had the many blood tests while (detoxing) my word and things are looking up. Speaking of looking up I am glad to be seeing normal again, well getting there, I had a lens replacement in the right eye last week which is good and bad. Yeah, good in that I can now see straight without the double vision and missing pieces but bad in the fact I did not realize how many cobwebs have taken over my house in the last two years, lol.
There are ways to eat at a fast food place, if you end up getting stuck with bringing your kids or grandkids that is. McDonald's and Wendy's both had salad choices. McDonald's also has a fruit salad that had apples, grapes, walnuts and yogurt for dipping, which I think is a healthy choice. But, it's up to us to pick the right things off of the menu. Nobody is twisting our arms to make us get those fries and burgers and shakes, you know? I brought my son one of the fruit salads and he was hooked and asked for 2 of them the next time. It's all a matter of deciding ahead of time what you are going to get and stick with the healthy choices. I on the other hand, have been known to get a craving for a chocolate shake at Arby's. I might do that once a year...., if even that. I do get the occasional pizza with just veggies on it, no meat and I tell them to only put 1/2 of the cheese on it, light cheese, or whatever you want to call it. I've even ordered the whole wheat pizzas before, which are quite good. But, my weight is normal, my cholesterol is normal, my A1C falls within normal limits, I've had upteen heart tests and they are all normal. I exercise, I don't smoke and I don't drink. So, I rationalize my occasional misbehaving with the junk food. Susan400
I was trying to kill time, I was in Seattle to go dancing and I went by this burger barn called "Dicks" and before I knew it I was eating junk food.
But I believe what everyone says about this stuff being heavy on the liver. The movie, "SuperSize Me", was proof of that. The guys doctors started out thinking that his diet of only McDonald's food wasn't dangerous but 2 weeks in they were begging him to stop because his liver panels were way off the charts.
Also, haven't they found that sprouts are dangerous because they can contain salmonella? (serously)
I can't believe you would take a Big Mac over the wild salmon! If I am at McDonalds, it is in the drive-thru and because there is really no other option. I am trying to cut out sugar, but I can't resist some of the desserts my wife makes. I think I will wait until after Thanksgiving (she makes terrific pies!) before making or renewing any resolutions.
Gotta agree with the "washing down a Big Mac with a non-alcoholic drink" being a similar disservice to the liver as drinking some alcohol. Fatty liver, in and of itself, is the cause of many liver transplants.
bummer. i started to eat junk food more often since the start of tx bc only fries and chicken nuggets can satisfy my hunger nowadays... or else i complain about being hungry ALL the time. what am i suppose to do?
Many of us on treatment were advised by our liver specialists to eat anything we want -- including junk food -- in order to keep from losing weight. Unless your doctor tells you not to, I'd eat what you can tolerate and not worry too much. Of course, if you can eat healthier without too much of a struggle, and still keep up your weight to an acceptable level, then why not. About the only thing I miss about treatment were my fat-laden breakfasts that I will no longer permit myself now that I'm off treatment. .
Today was my first treatment, interferon and 2 riba virin x 2, it zonked me, I got a fever and felt so tired. Will this lesson as treatment goes on??? omg the headache, when waking. Gone now, but afraid to take anything, my test found no liver scarring, Initially, my liver numbers were elavated, then they wen t down and now right before treatment, went up again. I need to work during this time of treatment, any ideas on getting through it, I will be on treatment for 6 months.--Larry
If you’re like many of us, the first treatment packs a wallop; after that, things might not be so um… startling. You can probably expect fatigue along with other issues. It sounds like you’re genotype 2 or 3 based on your assigned treatment duration… this is a good thing, actually.
Welcome to the discussion group, and in the future, feel free to click on the green ‘post a question’ button near the top of the page to start a new thread.
Hi - ditto what Bill said. Better to post a new question "post a question" some of these old threads "2008" may not get noticed.
Regarding your liver numbers, I'm assuming you are referring to your ALT/AST. It is common for these to go up and down when you have Hepatitis C.
I think, the majority here, continue working. You may be fortunate and have very few side effects or it may get rough. But, remember you can do this and someday it will all be behind you. Stay with this forum, these folks will be your support group and help get you through.
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