The healthy functioning of the liver depends on multiple factors including available vitamins and minerals, as well as the number of toxins (i.e. alcohol, medications) it must deal with daily. The use of vitamins for liver health is proposed to help support liver functions and improve the overall health of the liver. However, many wonder how to improve liver function. This article provides a review of the best vitamins for the liver.
Liver health supplements containing vitamins C, D, and E, as well as many B vitamins, have been shown to help the liver in different ways, like preventing oxidative damage, enhancing immunity, and improving metabolic function.
Excessive intake of liver supplements containing vitamins such as niacin and vitamins A, E, and D, can be harmful and should be taken under the direction of your doctor.
Before starting any new liver supplements, always discuss the use of it with your doctor first, especially if you have underlying liver disease.
Healthy lifestyle changes such as weight loss, moderate alcohol consumption, proper vaccination, and eating a healthy diet can maximize liver function and may prevent liver disease.
What influences liver health?
The liver plays an essential role in maintaining the health and well-being of the body. It eliminates toxins, regulates cholesterol and blood sugar levels, produces bile, and stores fat-soluble vitamins. It also produces nearly every protein in the blood including the factors responsible for blood clotting.
The liver needs a wide variety of essential vitamins, which serve as co-factors for a wide range of reactions, to carry out these vital functions. Furthermore, the antioxidant qualities of vitamins C and E aid in lowering oxidative stress on liver cells and preventing damage to them. Thus, deficiencies in various vitamins can have a negative effect on liver health.
Various factors, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heavy alcohol consumption, can negatively impact the liver's overall health. The liver can also become dysfunctional due to autoimmune disorders, liver cancer, and infections like hepatitis B and C.
Common liver health issues
Conditions that damage the liver can lead to scarring and the development of liver failure, which is a life-threatening disease. The most common diseases affecting liver health include non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Hepatitis B and C infections, and alcohol-induced liver disease:
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is caused by the overproduction and buildup of fat in liver cells. Obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes are associated with an increased risk of NAFLD.
- Hepatitis B and C viral infections can occur due to exposure to infected bodily fluids, the sharing of needles, and unprotected sex. The chronic inflammation due to the viral infection ultimately damages the liver, leading to scarring and liver failure.
- Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol. Large quantities of alcohol lead to the accumulation of toxic metabolic substances that cause damage and inflammation of liver cells.
The science behind vitamins for liver health
Vitamins for liver health have been demonstrated to be useful in maintaining and supporting liver function in a variety of diseases. Let’s analyze some of the research that supports the use of vitamins in supporting liver health now.
How vitamins support liver function
The liver is an important organ for many metabolic reactions. Co-factors, many of which are vitamins, are necessary for a number of these reactions to proceed successfully and efficiently.
Individual liver cells may experience a high degree of oxidative stress as a result of the liver's detoxifying processes. Vitamins C and E, in particular, have antioxidant qualities that are crucial in lowering oxidative stress and averting liver damage.
A number of vitamins, including vitamin D, are activated in part by the liver. Vitamin D enhances bone health and lowers inflammation and scarring in the liver by being converted to its active form.
Clinical studies and evidence
In the last few years, a large number of scientific studies have discovered that vitamin deficiencies are frequently present in a variety of liver diseases, including alcoholic liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
It is unclear, nevertheless, if the deficiencies lead to the illness or if the illness causes the deficiencies. To better understand this, clinical studies of supplementing vitamins for chronic liver diseases have been performed and have shown some benefits.
Chronic liver infections brought on by hepatitis B and C damage individual cells and lead to the development of cirrhosis. On the other hand, vitamin D supplementation, which functions as an immunomodulator, might enhance the body's reaction to persistent viral hepatitis.
Key vitamins for liver health
Vitamins are necessary for the human body's general health. The vitamins D, E, and C, along with a number of B vitamins, are essential for liver health maintenance, detoxification, and possible prevention of liver disease.
Vitamin D helps to support our immune system, decrease inflammation, and regulate glucose metabolism.
Studies on alcoholic liver disease and Hepatitis B patients, particularly those with severe illness, frequently show low vitamin D levels, which are generally associated with worse health outcomes. Vitamin D has the potential to inhibit viral replication and lower elevated liver enzyme levels in individuals suffering from acute hepatitis.
While some studies have demonstrated the potential benefits of vitamin D supplementation in treating liver diseases, other research suggests that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may not benefit from this approach. Instead of a vitamin D shortage, researchers think the issue may stem from the liver's lack of vitamin D receptors, however, more investigation is necessary.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects our cells from damage by neutralizing free radicals.
Studies have demonstrated that vitamin E can help lower liver inflammation and fat, especially in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) patients without diabetes.
A small pilot study was done to examine the effects of vitamin E on the hepatitis B virus, and the results indicated that fewer viruses were circulating in hepatitis B patients. In those with alcoholic liver disease, the antioxidant properties of vitamin E have also been demonstrated to lessen oxidative stress and enhance liver function. However, optimal doses for these conditions have not been studied.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals that contribute to tissue damage and inflammation.
In one study, vitamin C supplementation at a dose of 1000 mg per day improved glucose metabolism and liver enzyme levels in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Conversely, other research has demonstrated that vitamin C is as ineffective as a placebo.
Because of this, the 2019 ESPEN Guidelines on Clinical Nutrition in Liver Disease state that further research is necessary to determine the efficacy of vitamin C in liver disease and do not recommend vitamin C supplementation.
The B vitamins, which include thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (B9), and cobalamin (B12), are essential coenzymes that are needed for a variety of hepatic metabolic reactions. Liver disease has been linked to deficiencies in these vitamins, particularly alcoholic liver disease.
A lack of these vitamins can result in a variety of symptoms that impact various body parts. Anemia, muscle weakness, and neurologic symptoms (numbness, tingling, confusion) have all been attributed to deficiencies of the different B vitamins. These deficits may also be linked to a decreased liver's capacity to perform specific metabolic functions efficiently.
In order to restore the liver's glutathione levels, which are crucial antioxidants, vitamin B6 is required for certain reactions. Low levels of glutathione and an increased vulnerability to oxidative damage can result from deficiencies in this vitamin.
Risks and precautions to consider
If you have any health conditions, it's always best to speak to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any vitamins for liver health. These are a few particular risks connected to certain vitamins:
- Vitamin B3 (niacin). The long-term use of high-dose niacin (vitamin B3) liver supplements can result in liver damage. To ensure the safe use of this vitamin supplement, your doctor should prescribe and oversee the use of niacin.
- Vitamin A. Those who suffer from alcoholic liver disease should take extra caution when adding vitamin A to their diet. Alcohol consumption on a regular basis can activate the liver enzymes that change vitamin A into toxic compounds. Therefore, supplementation should be supervised by your doctor because too much vitamin A can be toxic.
- Vitamin D. Kidney stones and high blood calcium and phosphorus levels can result from excessive vitamin D intake. It is advised that you undergo routine blood testing to make sure your replacement is sufficient.
- Vitamin E. When vitamin E is taken in excess, the body may produce levels that can cause problems related to vitamin E toxicity. The most dangerous side effect is a higher chance of bleeding, particularly in individuals who are already taking drugs that interfere with normal blood clotting. This may lead to an increased risk of strokes and brain hemorrhages.
Other ways to maintain good liver health
Lifestyle changes are also important in maintaining a healthy liver and can prevent the development of liver disease. These include:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a risk factor for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and weight loss may help prevent excessive fat accumulation in the liver.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol intake can damage the liver and may lead to scarring and liver failure.
- Avoid risky behaviors. The use of condoms and obtaining help if you have issues with IV drug use can help reduce the risk of contracting hepatitis B and C.
- Get vaccinated. Effective vaccines are available for Hepatitis A and B viruses and can help prevent chronic infections.
- Use medications as directed. Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can damage the liver when used inappropriately. To reduce this risk, always use it as directed and under the care of a physician.
- Healthy diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein is important to support liver function.
Which vitamins are good for the liver?
Vitamins C, D, and E benefit liver health, each supporting the liver in different ways, such as aiding detoxification, reducing inflammation, and preventing liver disease. Additionally, B vitamins are important for optimal liver functioning and should be supplemented in alcoholic liver disease.
Is vitamin B12 good for the liver?
Yes, vitamin B12 is vital for creating and repairing liver DNA and for energy production. Some studies have even shown that vitamin B12 may reverse the findings of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, excess B12 has been linked to severe liver problems, so people with liver issues should check with their doctor before starting.
How can I support my liver health?
To support liver health, maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources, exercise regularly, limit alcohol intake, get your hepatitis vaccinations, and avoid risky behaviors. In addition, weight loss is also important, especially in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Clinical Nutrition. ESPEN guideline on clinical nutrition in liver disease.
- NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D: fact sheet for professionals.
- LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury. Vitamin B.
- StatPearls. Alcoholic liver disease.
- StatPearls. Biochemistry, water soluble vitamins.
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