A recent study from University of California San Diego School of Medicine suggests glyphosate, the main ingredient in popular weedkiller Roundup, is linked to liver damage.
The study, which evaluated levels of glyphosate in urine, found that levels of the herbicide were significantly higher in patients suffering from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease than in patients with healthier livers.
The findings also showed that the higher the glyphosate in the urine, the worse condition the liver was in.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, is a condition in which excess fat is stored in the liver. The condition can be dangerous when this excess fat is combined with inflammation and liver cell damage, which is referred to as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NAFLD is one of the most common causes of liver disease in the U.S., affecting 30-40% of adults. NASH affects about 3-12% of adults — Wayne Eskridge is one of them.
In 2010, Eskridge, who serves as the CEO of the Fatty Liver Foundation, was diagnosed with severe cirrhosis, an offshoot of NASH. Because there is no treatment for the disease, doctors advised him to change his lifestyle. They specifically advised him on nutrition – recommending that he avoid sugar, processed, and saturated fats.
With research and commitment to a new dietary regime, Eskridge has successfully managed his condition and hopes to pass along his knowledge to others.
When asked about the Roundup study, Eskridge can see how a pesticide could trigger negative effects in the liver.
“Everything goes through the liver,” Eskridge says. “The harm comes from inflammation, and this is where things like Roundup would come up. As the fat content of the liver develops, it stresses the cells and they become more susceptible. So if you’re chronically exposed to chemicals, it may trigger inflammation in a liver that’s distressed. But it’s hard to prove a single cause.”
The UCSD study was published in the wake of other reported concerns involving Roundup. Monsanto and its popular weed killer have made headlines as thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the agribusiness giant claiming exposure to glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the U.S., caused patients’ diagnoses of cancer.
In the past year alone, three verdicts have resulted in billions of dollars awarded to patients — the most recent jury awarded a $2.055 billion verdict to a couple in California.
Paul Mills, director of UCSD’s Center of Excellence for Research and Training in Integrative Health and the study’s lead researcher, hopes these findings will bring more attention to this issue as NAFLD affects as many as 100 million Americans. The number continues to grow.
“If you go back to about 2000, [NAFLD in the U.S.] hardly existed,” Mills says. “But since then it’s just been a steady increase over time. And even though there’s this linkage with obesity, there has been an upward trend in obesity since the 1960s, so I question that direct link. Glyphosate really hit the U.S. food supply in 1995 and started ramping up steadily from there. So, it’s either coincidence or perhaps it is one of the driving factors for this epidemic.”
In a perfect world unhindered by the limitations of funding and assignments, Mills would like to conduct a study in which patients consume an all organic diet and are tracked over the course of months.
“If we eliminate not only Roundup, but other pesticides and herbicides in the food that are hard for the liver to manage chronically, would it give the liver a chance to heal?” Mills says. “Then would some of the biomarkers and indicators of liver disease reverse?”
As U.S. consumers hold their breath for further research on the risks of Roundup, the question stands.