When we think about enhancing our metabolism, we might look to one of the countless metabolic enhancers or fat burners that line the shelves of many health food stores.

But what would you do if you found out that an often overlooked organ–the liver–and the myriad nutrients that help support its function could hold the key to your fat loss goals?

Not only is the liver the largest internal organ, responsible for performing over 500 different chemical functions, it also happens to be one of the most powerful allies your body has when it comes to using excess body fat as fuel.

Your liver acts as the body’s washing machine, working constantly to clean and remove both internal toxins (those produced by your own metabolism) as well as external toxins (those produced from outside sources). Your liver also happens to be the production site of 80 to 85 percent of T3, the metabolism-modulating thyroid hormone.

The Fat Connection

Obesity has been linked to compromised liver health for many years. Russian researchers showed that liver function could be corrected once a person lost a significant portion of body fat. In their study patients who lost 54 percent of their excess body weight (by following a specialized high-protein diet) showed considerable improvement in their liver function (which is quite interesting since many still believe that high-protein diets harm the liver).

In another study Japanese researchers at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health in Kitakyshu analyzed data from 1,591 people over a 10-year period and concluded that obesity is more closely related to liver dysfunction than to any other abnormality.

Elevated liver enzymes are usually a good indicator of liver dysfunction, and many studies show a direct link between excess body fat and these elevated enzyme levels. One study appearing in the International Journal of Obesity (1991) indicated that levels of the liver enzyme, alanine aminotransferase (ALT), were elevated in 16 out of 17 obese participants.

This research clearly shows that obesity is a risk factor for liver disease, and by losing excess body fat, liver health can be enhanced. But does research also indicate that an unhealthy liver can contribute to the accumulation of unwanted pounds?

The Liver Link

Research published in the International Journal of Obesity indicates that liver toxicity can often lead to excess body fat accumulation, and moderately obese people frequently suffer from liver dysfunction.

Due to the overwhelming evidence linking excess body fat to an overstressed liver, cleansing and supporting your liver may be your ticket to a healthier metabolism. Consider the following strategies for giving your liver a leg up.

Exercise regularly: Research shows that exercise helps to enhance glucose uptake in the liver, thereby lowering fatty liver disease.

Consume high-quality dietary fibre: Enhance liver health with fibre, which binds to bile and eliminates fat-soluble toxins from the body.

Supplement with extra B vitamins: These are essential for decongesting the liver and promoting fat metabolism.

Supplement with liver-supportive nutrients: These include artichoke, milk thistle, dandelion, D-glucarate, trimethylglycine (TMG), and choline.

Supporting your liver will go a long way toward realizing healthy weight management. You’ll also be oiling the wheels of a complex metabolic machine.

The Liver-Loving Whey

Losing excess body fat is important for enhancing liver health.

One way to achieve a lower body fat percentage (BMI) is by eating smaller meals more often and making sure to include a high quality protein source with every meal. Whey proteins with high levels of alpha-lactalbumin contain special peptides that boost liver levels of glutathione—one of the liver’s most powerful detoxifying agents.

A study in the journal Nutrition (October 2005) also showed that whey protein was able to suppress fat accumulation in the livers of rats, thereby decreasing body fat stores and enhancing fat-burning activity. Researchers concluded that whey protein may play an important role in decreasing accumulation of body fat.

About the Author

Brad J. King, MS, MFS, is a nutritional researcher and author of seven books, including Awaken Your Metabolism: Your Ultimate Guide to Abundant Energy (Health Venture Publications, 2005). www.awakenyourbody.com