Category Archives: Liver Problems

Chronic Liver Disease Shows Amino Acid-Sulphur Deficiency

Turns out that your liver can benefit from the sulphur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine. Health benefits of amino acids such as these are excellent, but this is especially true for those with liver disease. As it turns out, those with chronic liver disease actually show a pattern of sulphur deficiency, so both cysteine and methionine may help with this.

Advanced liver disease and methionine / cysteine amino acids

In advanced or chronic liver disease, the metabolism of the sulphur-containing aminos, such as methionine and cysteine, are is impaired (no difference in the amino acid taurine, however).

In a study by P Almasio, G Bianchi, et al., at the Clinica Medica R, Università di Palermo, in Italy, the researchers published their discoveries based on 60 people who had chronic liver disease. The results show a pattern of amino acid deficiency in these patients.

10 of the subjects were used a control because they were healthy, but the other 50 patients had chronic liver disease, which was proven via biopsy.

The breakdown of their liver disease impairments

Hypermethioninemia (an extreme amount of methionine) was present in only these cases:

10 cases compensated cirrhosis
10 cases decompensated cirrhosis

Plus there were:

30 cases chronic hepatitis

The results of this clinical trial showed cysteine, a metabolite of methionine metabolism, was “markedly reduced in patients with compensated chronic liver disease, while in advanced cirrhosis its concentration was within the normal range.”

Methionine is an essential amino acid, which means you can only get it through diet, particularly protein foods such as meats (chicken, beef, pork, lamb, plus fish and eggs). Also, cysteine is a non-essential amino acid, which means the body can produce this amino acid on its own. No differences were observed (in plasma levels) for the amino acid taurine between groups.

What was observed was how sulfur-containing amino acid metabolism was deranged and “possibly located at various steps along the trans-sulphuration pathway, is also present in mild forms of chronic liver disease.”

What this means is that a key marker for those with chronic liver disease is that sulphur-containing amino acids are deficient. This can be true for people suffering from decompensated cirrhosis), or hepatitis.

The study did not explain whether supplementing intake with cysteine or methionine would affect the—chronic liver disease–patients in a positive way or not, but it is good to know that both of these amino acids are in ample amounts when associated with healthy livers, yet levels are abnormal in diseased livers.

Reference:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8025302

Food that Contain Cysteine and Methionine

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When we eat protein foods our bodies break down the proteins into their respective amino acids, and then builds them back up into new proteins that help build muscle and organs and help run other functions in the body. The amino acids cysteine and methionine are needed by the body as well, and can be gotten from certain foods.

Benefits of methionine amino acid

Methionine is a sulfur-containing and proteinogenic amino acid. It provides sulfur for the hair, skin, and nails plus lowers cholesterol and provides protection for the kidneys. It can also prevent liver damage from taking too much acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Methionine can increase acidity in the urine, improve wound healing, and treat various liver disorders. Other uses for methionine include treating copper poisoning, alcoholism, depression, allergies, asthma, side effects from radiation, drug withdrawal, schizophrenia, and even Parkinson’s disease.

Benefits of cysteine amino acid

Cysteine helps protect the liver against long-term effects of alcohol use, specifically from the poison acetaldehyde (a by-product of alcohol metabolism), although it does not reduce drunkenness. Cysteine is also an antioxidant and therefore fights free radicals in the body. It can help with treating diabetes, colitis (an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), plus may treat cardiovascular disease, angina, flu, chronic bronchitis, inflammation, and osteoarthritis.

This sulfur-containing amino acid is synthesized only when methionine is in the body, therefore it is connected to methionine in this way and is why both cysteine and methionine are usually taken together through dietary supplementation. This is why it is important to eat foods that contain both cysteine and methionine so that they can complement one another for proper health benefits.

Foods high in cysteine and methionine

Methionine and cysteine work in tandem in the body, with cysteine particularly being dependent upon the presence of methionine to be produced and work in the body.

Food sources for both methionine and cysteine…

Methionine Cysteine
nuts
eggs
spinach
mushrooms
broccoli
potatoes
fish/tuna
meats*
seeds
almonds
parmesan cheese
brazil nuts
wheat germ
peanuts
chickpea
corn
pintos
lentils
medium-grained brown rice
milk
eggs
red peppers
onions
broccoli
oats
whey protein
meats*
cottage cheese
yogurt
ricotta
garlic
brussels sprouts
granola
wheat germ
sprouted lentils

*chicken, pork, turkey, duck, cured/dried or ground beef, bacon, in particular

Be sure to talk to your doctor before making any extreme or unusual modifications to your diet.

References:

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-42-methionine.aspx?activeingredientid=42&activeingredientname=methionine

http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/L-Cysteine.htm

http://nutrition.nutricia.com/conditions/sulphite-oxidase-deficiency

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) Help Liver Patients

Supplements containing branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) granules improved the outcome for patients with liver disease.

Liver cirrhosis is caused by advanced liver disease. The liver tissue is gradually replaced with scar tissue, resulting in a loss of liver function. This loss of liver function causes fluids to be retained in the abdominal cavity, leading to massive swelling and greatly reducing quality of life.

Liver cirrhosis can also lead to esophageal varices, which are dilated veins in the bottom of the esophagus. The dilated veins are formed when the blood flow through the liver is disrupted due to liver scarring. These veins often bleed, and must be treated with endoscopy.

The cirrhosis and complications results in lack of nutrition for the patient, as nutrients cannot be properly absorbed. Nutritional supplements are therefore part of the treatment.

An article in J Gastroenterol investigated the benefits of branched-chain amino acid enriched nutrients for patients with liver cirrhosis.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) are essential amino acids, which mean we must get them from our food. BCAA’s are crucial to our wellbeing, as they not only create the antibodies which fight infection, but also make up our muscles and internal organs.

Sakai Y, Iwata Y, et al, researchers at the Hyogo College of Medicine, Japan, investigated the usefulness of BCAA supplements for liver patients undergoing endoscopic treatment for esophageal varices.

BCAA-enriched nutrients improve outcome for liver patients

The researchers gave patients BCAA-enriched nutrients, and evaluated their nutritional status over time. They examined weight gain and albumin on the first day, day seven, and day 50.

The BCAA-enriched nutrient mixture maintained the weight in the cirrhotic patients. Their non-protein respiratory quotients were also significantly improved.

The researchers concluded that including BCAA’s with nutritional energy supplements would be beneficial for cirrhotic patients undergoing endoscopic treatments.

Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24633624

Can Taurine Protect The Liver From Environmental Damage And Disease?

A Japanese study has shown that treatment with taurine can protect against xenobiotics-induced liver damages. Could this lead to a new treatment for cirrhosis and other forms of liver disease?

There are over 100 forms of liver disease, some of which lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis, a condition where the liver is permanently damaged by scarring, is the end form of many liver diseases.  The damaged cirrhotic liver can’t remove toxins, which accumulate in the blood and can lead to death. The overall mortality rate for drug-induced liver injury is about 5%.

Some liver diseases, including cirrhosis, are caused by xenobiotics, which are drugs and environmental chemicals. Such drugs can include acetaminophen, a very common pain reliever found in paracetamol. The risk is much higher in illegal drugs synthesized from bromobenzene, such as PCP.

The liver is particularly prone to xenobiotics-induced injury because of its role in filtering and removing toxins.

Can the liver be protected by taurine?

A study by T Miyazaki and Y Matsuzaki, from Tokyo Medical University, Japan, investigated the protective effects of the amino acid taurine.

Taurine has many functions, and is present in most of our tissues. It’s found throughout our bodies, particularly in our central nervous system, skeletal muscle, heart, and liver.

We produce taurine from food, especially foods high in B6, such as seafood. Taurine is biosynthesized in the liver. It has even been shown to prevent liver disease and cirrhosis in rats.

Taurine affects human livers, too. People with liver disease often have low levels of taurine in their hepatic system. And serious liver damages were observed in the pericentral region of the liver in patients with severely depleted liver taurine levels.

The study showed that taurine treatment was a useful agent for xenobiotics-induced liver damages.

The risk for developing xenobiotics-induced injury will be greatly reduced if people ensure they follow all directions on packages, follow guidelines for safe alcohol consumption, and avoid illegal drugs.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22918604

Sulfur-Containing Amino Acids Cysteine and Methionine

The two main sulfur-containing amino acids are cysteine and methionine; however, there are other sulfur-containing amino acids as well. Both cysteine and methionine are nonpolar as well as hydrophobic, with methionine being extremely hydrophobic as far as amino acids go. Methionine is also found inside proteins, and cysteine is often found there too. There are some other fascinating things about these two (and other) sulfur-containing amino acids.

Aside from methionine and cysteine being most popularly known, other commonly known sulfur-containing amino acids include homocysteine and taurine. The last two are not incorporated into proteins, however. According to the authors at the Journal of Nutrition (JN), the “difference accounts for some of the distinctive properties of the sulfur-containing amino acids. Methionine is the initiating amino acid in the synthesis of virtually all eukaryotic proteins … [and if] exposed, are susceptible to oxidative damage. Cysteine, by virtue of its ability to form disulfide bonds, plays a crucial role in protein structure and in protein-folding pathways.”

The authors of JN discuss a number of these sulfur-containing amino acids—methionine, cysteine, taurine, homocysteine, and the lesser known S-adenosylmethionine.

Importance of sulfur-containing amino acids

Although cysteine and methionine are the primary sulfur-containing amino acids due to being two of the 22 common amino acids that are incorporated within proteins, both taurine and homocysteine are also important for physiological function. So why is sulfur in amino acids since most aminos are made of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen? Because, says JN, oxygen and sulfur both belong to ‘Group 6’ of the Periodic Table of Elements, so are “capable of making similar covalent linkages” with a critical difference that sulfur has a low electronegativity (oxygen has the second lowest electronegativity). So if oxygen replaces the sulfur it would “result in a much less hydrophobic amino acid.”

Furthermore, substituting oxygen for sulfur—causing oxidation—in sulfur-containing amino acids (including in the more rare S-adenosylmethionine) can have effects in methionine residues where the surface is exposed, causing an oxidation-reduction cycle, imparing the activity of “methionine sulfoxide reductase and the subsequent accumulation of methionine sulfoxide residues [that] are associated with age-related diseases, neurodegeneration, and shorter lifespan.”

Lastly taurine, as one of the more remarkable sulfur-containing amino acids, has very high concentrations within muscle tissues and utilizes a wide variety of functions. Taurine is, says JN, the “most abundant free amino acid in animal tissues [even though it] accounts for only 3% of the free amino acid pool in plasma, it accounts for 25%, 50%, 53%, and 19%, respectively, of this pool in liver, kidney, muscle, and brain.” It is also one of the most necessary sulfur-containing amino acids for cats and results retinal degeneration in kittens if the mothers are not fed a taurine-rich diet. Taurine is also found in human mother’s milk and is added to many infant formulas because it helps with eyesight.

So all in all, sufur-containing amino acids are necessary for proper health of both animals and humans in the proper biological functioning and growth, as well being associated with some diseases and anti-aging and neurological issues.

Reference:

http://jn.nutrition.org/content/136/6/1636S.full