How Stress Causes a Fatty Liver

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

New research has for the first time pinpointed the precise mechanism explaining how excess cortisol results in a fatty liver1.  Once a fatty liver sets in then your main metabolic organ has been clogged, and health is certain to decline.  A fatty liver is associated with obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure – in essence the entire metabolic syndrome of poor health that predisposes to cardiovascular disease.

The stress hormone cortisol is often implicated in a fat stomach as well as a fatty liver, but how exactly this happens has not been understood.  When researchers switched off the cortisol receptor in the liver’s of mice, the accumulation of fat stopped.  They found that this caused on elevation of a protein called HES1, which activates enzymes that break down fat (preventing accumulation).  When normal mice were given extra cortisol then HES1 levels drop and fat accumulates.

In humans, cortisol is vital for survival and adapting to stress.  When cortisol levels rise due to excessive or ongoing stress, the many problems occur not only in your liver but also in your brain.  The key is to manage stress well and be sure to get adequate sleep for recovery of the demands in your day.  Following the Leptin Diet is vital for liver health and encourages the natural breaking down of fat within the liver and elsewhere.  Nutrients like pantethine have been shown to support your adrenal glands and mood, while directly metabolizing stuck fat out of your liver.  Nutrients like phosphatidylserine have been shown to recalibrate cortisol response in your brain, helping your adrenals to not make exaggerated cortisol in response to stress.

Referenced Studies:
  1. ^ Cortisol and a Fatty Liver  Cell Metabolism  1. Ulrike Lemke, Anja Krones-Herzig, Mauricio Berriel Diaz, Prachiti Narvekar, Anja Ziegler, Alexandros Vegiopoulos, Andrew Cato, Sebastian Bohl, Ursula Klingmüller, Robert A. Screaton, Karin Müller-Decker, Sander Kersten and Stephan Herzig

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