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Why Cardio Might Be Able to Protect Your Liver

by Kate Ferguson on February 17, 2016
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Good news for the drinkers of the world, sticking with your cardio routine might be able to help protect your liver.

A study done at the University of Missouri School of Medicine discovered that aerobic exercise can protect your liver in multiple ways. The study was done on rats, not humans, but there is no reason to think that the results wouldn’t hold up when it comes to people as well.

According to the study:

“We know from previous research that chronic and binge drinking causes modifications to protein structures within the liver, resulting in irreversible damage. In our current study we wanted to see whether increased levels of aerobic fitness could prevent alcohol-related liver damage.”

To do this research they first found rats that were better than average at running and then bred them with each other to create strong running rats. Then they split that group in two, exposing one to alcohol abusive levels of alcohol over a course of six weeks and let the other group stay sober. All of the rats ended up eating the same amount of calories despite whether they were given the alcohol or not.

The point of course was to find out if the aerobic exercise would change how the alcohol affected their bodies, and it did. The rats who were given alcohol throughout the study still had fatty acids on the liver but didn’t see an increase in the inflammation from it, and they didn’t see any increase in free fatty acids or glucose in their blood. It seemed to protect them quite a bit, and here’s why.

For one thing, doing cardio exercise can strengthen the mitochondria of the cells, which is the outer wall of them. For another thing, doing aerobic activity speeds up the metabolism which in itself is a great way to speed up the natural detoxification process of the liver.

According to study author Jamal Ibdah, M.D.:

“This is significant because chronic alcohol ingestion may reduce insulin effectiveness over time, leading to elevated blood insulin and sugar levels. With chronic use, we would expect to see these levels much higher than the control group, yet surprisingly, they were about the same.”

And continued:

“We’ve done other studies and found using short bouts of high-intensity interval training and moderate exercise in humans both result in reduced and reversed liver damage—though not related to alcohol.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol abuses leads to 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, and what constitutes alcohol abuse might actually surprise. The CDC considers drinking more than three or four drinks at one time alcohol abuse, while that’s what many people call a night out on the town. Drinking alcohol in excess has been proven to lead to fatty liver disease, as well as sometimes liver failure, so protecting the liver is quite important.

Obviously there is more research that needs to be done on the topic and working out alone can’t reverse all the negative effects of alcohol abuse, but it is something to keep in mind.

“We’ve done other studies and found using short bouts of high-intensity interval training and moderate exercise in humans both result in reduced and reversed liver damage—though not related to alcohol.”

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