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Mistletoe Fights Liver Disease? Not Just For Kissing

Dec 17, 2014 02:12 PM EST

It's that time of the year when the dreaded mistletoe comes out to make children giggle, young ladies blush, and fathers cringe. But this festive plant isn't just about kissing. A new study has revealed that a compound produced by mistletoe can actually help patients fight obesity-related liver disease.

Back in 2008, it was officially recognized that liver disease of metabolic origin, associated with obesity and an excess of fat storage in liver cells,  is the most prevalent kind of liver disease in Western countries. That's even despite the fact that the disease can also be caused by alcohol-inflicted damage to the liver, with one in three American adults regularly partaking in what the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers "excessive drinking."

Obesity-related liver disease, referred to as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), causes inflammation, fibrosis, and eventually cirrhosis of the liver, leading to liver failure. It can be deadly, and with obesity already severely hampering patients' health in other ways, it often is.

However, a new study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has investigated a number of biologically active compounds found specifically in Korean mistletoe that may help patients fight the progression of NAFLD.

Following a series of analyses, lead researcher Jungkee Kwon and his colleagues found that the compound viscothionin affects lipid metabolism in the liver, helping reduce abnormal fat saturation levels. The study details how body and liver weights in obese mice treated with viscothionin dropped.

This exposes visconthionin as the lead, if not sole driver of mistletoe's beneficial properties in treating NAFLD. However, the extent to which this compound can help, and how exactly it would function in human liver cells, still needs to be investigated.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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