There are numerous reasons to limit your intake of sugar. It feeds cancer cells, harmful bacteria, and inflammation, and it can lead to type 2-diabetes. But not all sugars are alike. A Japanese researcher found that one natural sweetener can actually help promote healthy liver function and overall good health.
When I first read that a sugar can promote healthy liver function, it surprised me. In addition to the problems mentioned above, too much sugar also causes liver disease. Take cirrhosis of the liver, for example. This progressive liver disease occurs when you ingest high amounts of sugar in the form of alcohol. But around 25% of all people in the U.S. have liver disease that is not alcohol related. Not surprisingly, most of them are overweight and have either diabetes or insulin resistance.
Good health requires a healthy functioning liver. Your liver is a workhorse. It performs literally hundreds of different tasks day and night. These include helping your body detoxify harmful substances, storing energy, and helping to regulate blood sugar. A poorly functioning liver can lead to one form or another of liver disease — and many other health problems.
And high amounts of sugar will derail a healthy liver. But Dr. Keiko Abe found one that has the opposite effect.
Dr. Abe tested pure maple syrup against a refined sugar syrup in laboratory animals. After 11 days, he made his surprising discovery. The group that ate the pure maple syrup had significantly better liver function tests than the control group. Their harmful cholesterol (LDH) also decreased. And so did their elevated liver enzymes.
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Why is maple syrup better for your liver? Maple syrup contains more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than a syrup made from refined sugar. But it does even more. It caused the genes that produce harmful ammonia in the liver to be less active.
Whatever the mechanism, you may want to trade in some of your dietary sugars for pure maple syrup. Don’t increase your sugar intake, however. Refined sugar, honey, fruit juice, alcohol, and maple syrup all still feed cancer cells and inflammation. But this simple dietary change could help your liver function better with little effort or cost.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand