Are cherries good for fatty liver? This is a question that I wanted to see what research had to say about cherries and fatty liver as cherries are high in fructose. Excess fructose consumption is associated with fatty liver, but does that mean that people with fatty liver should avoid high fructose fruits such as cherries?
This question on the fructose content in cherries and fatty liver intrigues me as many people fear the natural sugar and fructose in fruit, especially if they are insulin resistant or have diabetes which is associated with fatty liver.
While high fructose corn syrup that is highly processed and added to many processed foods, beverages, and sauces is associated with an increased risk for developing fatty liver, I wanted to know if natural antioxidant-rich fruits such as cherries that are high in fructose are associated with fatty liver.
The low-carb, high-fat diet is still trendy among many health advocates, and I have to question my knowledge and research, so I wanted to see what studies had to say about cherries and fatty liver.
I am not saying fats are all bad and we should eliminate them from our diets, I always watch my consumption as many studies induce fatty liver, obesity, and diabetes by giving rats or mice a high-fat diet that is high in calories.
Too much saturated fat in the diet has adverse effects on liver health and increases the risk of developing fatty liver. Sometimes I have reservations about how much fruit my toddler wants to eat, but I worry more about her love of saturated fats and cheese!
High fructose corn syrup and fatty liver
The fructose found in soft drinks is associated with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in children, which is why pop is never a treat in my house. Fruit, yes. But soda pop, no! There are too many negative effects of fructose-sweetened beverages on liver health and blood sugar levels.
Many studies show the beneficial effects of cherries in preventing fatty liver in mice fed high fat diets, along with improved blood sugar and insulin levels. But without a doubt, the combination of high-fructose corn syrup sweetened beverages such as pop eaten alongside a high fat diet is associated with metabolic disorders and diabetes.
A study in rats found that a high fat diet combined with high fructose beverages for six months led to the development of type 2 diabetes. It is crucial that people reduce the amount of fructose-sweetened drinks and processed foods along with fatty foods, as both are risk factors for developing diabetes at a younger age.
A key finding in one study is that the fructose molecule itself is not responsible for making triglycerides. Instead, fat accumulates in the liver due to fructose altering lipid metabolism, activating new fat formation, and blocking fatty acid oxidation (the breakdown of fats to be used as fuel).
Cherries and fatty liver
In a study examining the effects of cherry consumption and oxidative stress in rats with type 2 diabetes that was induced by a high fat and high fructose diet revealed that cherry consumption significantly reduced oxidative stress, improved liver function, and reduced fatty liver. The beneficial effects of cherries reducing oxidative stress may help prevent the onset of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease associated with metabolic syndrome.
Another study found that cherry anthocyanins protect against oxidative stress and reduce fat accumulation in the liver. Cherry anthocyanins also activates autophagy to diminish fat accumulation.
In another study, rats were given a high-fat diet or a high-fat diet supplemented with tart cherry seed powder and seed powder plus juice.
After 17 weeks, the rats fed a high fat diet showed increased body weight, higher blood sugar levels, insulin levels, and higher systolic blood pressure.
However, the rats supplemented with tart cherry seed powder and juice had lower systolic blood pressure, blood sugar levels, triglycerides, and oxidative stress markers in the blood. The cherry powder and juice did not reduce body weight in the diet induced obese rats, but it prevented risk factors associated with diabetes and fatty liver.
Yet again, another study in mice used a high fat diet to induce fatty liver. The object of this study was to examine the health benefits of sweet cherry anthocyanins on fatty liver, as anthocyanins have been shown to have beneficial effects on obesity and metabolic disorders.
Results revealed that the rats supplemented with sweet cherry anthocyanins alleviated fatty liver in the mice fed a high fat diet. The treatment of sweet cherry anthocyanins altered hepatic gene expression of 1119 genes in 16 pathways, including fatty acid metabolism and the production of unsaturated fatty acids. This study confirms the beneficial effects of sweet cherry anthocyanins on protecting the liver from the adverse effects of a high fat diet.
In these studies, a common denominator is that a high fat diet was used to induce too much fat accumulation in the liver and that anthocyanins in cherries prevent a fatty liver from developing, along with reducing elevated markers associated with diabetes and insulin resistance.
Fatty liver and IBS are also often associated and one of the reasons why I don’t like the fodmap diet is because it is often high in fats due to the restriction of so many fruits and vegetables that are beneficial for the liver.
Even though cherries are high in fructose and natural sugars, they are also rich in polyphenols, anthocyanins, and vitamin C, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that promote a healthy body and healthy liver by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.
40 ml of tart cherry juice consumption for six weeks in diabetic women has also been shown to decrease hemoglobin AlC levels. Cherry extracts or purified anthocyanins given to mice fed high fat diets also decreased circulating glucose, insulin, and liver triglycerides.
In conclusion, all these studies on cherries or extracts from cherries point to the benefits of cherries in reversing fatty liver in mice fed high fat diets. Even though cherries contain fructose, they are also rich in many other phytonutrients and anthocyanins that have been proven to have many beneficial effects on the liver and metabolic markers in animal studies.
While some people may have reservations about the fructose content in fruit causing fatty liver, a study done on 977 men and 1467 women found no association between fruit and vegetable intake and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
You cannot put natural sources of fructose, such as those found in cherries, in the same box as high fructose corn syrup which does contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Natural sugars found in whole food fruits and vegetables are healthy carbohydrates and completely different from a high-sugar diet containing processed foods such as refined white sugar and refined carbohydrates.
While I was able to find many studies highlighting the benefits of cherries or cherry extracts for fatty liver disease, I couldn’t find any studies done on cherries that resulted in cherries causing fatty liver. In fact, I found the opposite.
A study done with 52, 280 participants found that an increased intake of fruits and vegetables was associated with a reduced risk of developing fatty liver, and they can actually protect against metabolic disorders related to fatty liver.
Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is one of my top recommendations for weight loss and liver detox. These foods, including cherries, are low in calories, high in nutrients, and phenomenal for preventing liver damage caused by oxidative stress, a high fat diet, and free radicals.
For more information on all the health benefits of cherries for fatty liver and more, I encourage you to read all the studies referenced below. If you are ready to include more cherries in your diet, go ahead and make this cherry beet smoothie that is liver-cleansing!
You can even make the best tasting dairy free and sugar free ice cream with cherries.
This post has lots more information on reversing insulin resistance and fatty liver. Many people don’t know that SNP’s in the PEMT gene and a choline deficiency is associated with fatty liver as well.