Are dates good for your liver?

  • The liver is responsible for detoxification and clearing the body of toxins and pollutants.
  • The liver is exposed to much oxidative stress from daily biological processes and toxins.
  • Dates are rich in micronutrients that support the liver and protect it from the effect of pollutants and bad eating habits.
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Modern life is full of pollutants and toxins that affect our body systems. However, our bodies are created with an inherent capacity to remove them. The liver is one of the organs involved in clearing harmful compounds out of the body. But what if the liver becomes overwhelmed with pollutants and toxins?

What is the liver?

The liver is an organ located in the upper right part of the belly. It regulates most of the chemical reactions in the body. Almost all of the blood from the stomach and intestine passes first into the liver before distributing nutrients all over the body. 

Functions of the liver

The liver is responsible for about 500 jobs in your body. Some of them are the following:

  • Production of bile, which breaks down fat into fatty acids in the intestine to be absorbed later.
  • Formation of some important blood components like plasma proteins 
  • Maintenance of blood glucose level and storage of excess glucose in the form of glycogen which can be converted back into glucose when needed.
  • Storage of iron.
  • Regulation of essential substances in the blood, such as amino acids.
  • Regulation of blood clotting.
  • Production of immune factors and removal of bacteria from the blood.

Effect of environmental toxins on the liver

Many toxins enter our body, like pesticides in vegetables and fruit, preservatives in sweets, and processed food. These are passed from the digestive tract to the liver that detoxifies and removes them from the body. They cause severe damage to the liver cells. 

 

Effect of bad eating habits on the liver

Excess alcohol use can lead to alcoholic liver disease, while overeating unhealthy food can lead to obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Both can lead to cirrhosis which may end in liver failure or liver cancer.  

 

Liver cleanses

The liver plays an essential role in protecting the body from toxins and pollutants and kicking them out of the body in the form of waste products. The market has many products that claim to “clean the liver.” However, no scientific trials are there to support this claim. On the other side, research has shown that adopting healthy habits can help your liver function normally. Those healthy habits include:

  • Limiting alcohol use to avoid alcoholic liver disease.
  • Losing excess weight. This is the only known effective treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver.
  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B if you are at risk.
  • Avoid risky behaviors, like unsafe sex and illegal drug abuse.
 

Can dates be good for the liver?

Dates are fruits that are packed with fibers, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are beneficial to the liver.

 

Antioxidant activity of dates

Dates are rich in antioxidants, namely vitamin C, tocopherol, and phytochemicals such as phenol compounds. They protect the cells from oxidant stress that comes from pollutants and toxins and normal biochemical processes inside the body. The liver function exposes the liver to much oxidant stress, leading to liver cirrhosis and cancer. Studies on rats showed that aqueous date extract is effective in protecting the liver against dichloroacetic acid, thanks to its content of phenolic, flavonoid, and tannins. Another study on rats showed it protects the liver from carbon tetrachloride. Several studies showed its antioxidant effect on superoxide and hydroxyl radicals.

Eating dates regularly provides the body with a constant supply of antioxidants which protects the liver over the long run. 

Antiviral activity of dates

Research has found that date pits have strong antiviral and antimicrobial properties. You can eat date pits safely by grinding them to a fine powder and adding them to smoothies, oatmeal, and more. It has a huge potential to be part of the treatment of HIV. Moreover, dates have an anti-inflammatory effect, so their regular intake protects from chronic diseases. Vitamin D, which is present in dates, was found to improve the response to antiviral therapy in case of viral hepatitis C.

Dates decrease harmful cholesterol

Dates are rich in dietary fibers, which lower harmful cholesterol in the blood, and at the same time, increase good cholesterol. This can improve the non-alcoholic fatty liver.

Dates improve the function of the digestive tract

Being rich in dietary fibers, dates promote the movement of the digestive tract and the growth of beneficial microbes in the colon. Thus, they improve the health of the digestive system, which is reflected in the liver.

 

Dates help improve non-alcoholic fatty liver

Non-alcoholic fatty liver is a build-up of fats in the liver of overweight or obese people. It does not usually cause a problem one its own, but it can cause cirrhosis and is related to issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. The only known treatment of this condition is losing excess weight. Dates can help lose weight by replacing sweets with this more nutrient-dense snack. A recent study showed that vitamin D could have a protective effect from the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver. 

 

Dates protect from chronic liver failure 

Dates may help prevent liver fibrosis and liver cirrhosis, a major cause of chronic liver failure. A study on rats has found that aqueous date extract can prevent liver fibrosis.

 

Antimutagenic activity of dates

Due to its antioxidant properties, date fruit can help protect cells from the damage of their genetic material (DNA), which can lead to cancer. Research has found that phenolic compounds found in dates decrease the carcinogenic potential that results from exposure to cancer-causing substances. 

Dates protect from liver cancer

By reducing and possibly reversing liver fibrosis, dates protect from liver cirrhosis which can lead to hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer). Moreover, research has found that glucans, a type of sugar (polysaccharides) present in dates, has anticancer activity. Additionally, vitamin D was found to suppress some types of hepatocellular carcinoma.

Dates may protect from autoimmune liver disease

Vitamin D, which is present in dates, was found to protect from several autoimmune diseases, including primary biliary cholangitis, autoimmune hepatitis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis. 

Vitamin C and the liver

Vitamin C, present in dates, was shown to have a protective effect from several liver diseases such as viral hepatitis and non-alcoholic fatty liver. Several reports have found that vitamin C supplements are useless and possibly harmful. It has to be taken as a part of a healthy diet to activate its antioxidant abilities. 

 

Other micronutrients and the liver

Dates are rich in micronutrients important for the liver’s health. Magnesium is involved in several functions of cells, and its deficiency was found to worsen liver cirrhosis. Manganese is involved in the metabolism of glucose and fat and has antioxidant activity. Potassium deficiency from low intake or disease is linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. 

If you are a hepatic patient, you have to consult your doctor before consuming large quantities of dates, any food, or supplement since the sick liver may not process these substances as usual.

Overall, dates are rich in nutrients that can support the health of the liver, hence the vitality of the whole body.

 

Summary

Dates are healthy fruits that contain many vitamins, fibers, and minerals, that support the liver and protect it from harmful toxins. Thus they maintain the vitality of the body. 

SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION:

Liver fibrosis: It is an abnormal healing response of the liver due to exposure to several injuries, including infection by viral hepatitis. It can be reversed by proper treatment.

Liver cirrhosis: It is the endpoint of liver fibrosis, leading to chronic liver failure and liver cancer. It is irreversible.

Antimutagenic substance: It is a substance that prevents another substance from causing changes in the DNA that lead to cancer formation, and hence it protects from cancer.

Written by:
Nancy Elrefaey, MS, MBBS
Ophthalmologist
Reviewed by:
Registered Dietitian

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