Eat Your Eggs! Choline and the Link With Fatty Liver

eggs“Stay away from eggs if you want to be healthy. They have all that fat and cholesterol!”

If you’re like most people, you began hearing that information in the 70s, 80s or 90s (depending upon your age). Eggs have received a very bad rap for the past 30 years or so. But recently, new information and better science are shedding light on how eggs – and in particular, their yolks – may be good for you and your liver. So chew on this:

Choline: Your Liver’s Secret Weapon

So if eggs are “fatty” and “full of cholesterol,” how could they actually be good for your liver – particularly if your issue is NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease)?

The secret is choline, a type of B vitamin micronutrient. Eggs rank very high on the list of foods that are high in either lecithin, which converts to choline, or in choline itself. Note that this is the egg yolks only, not egg whites, which only have traces of this micronutrient.

The body can synthesize this amazing nutrient, but it isn’t an easy process for someone with a compromised liver. That’s why individuals with fatty liver disease need an external source of choline, either in the form of supplements or, even better, directly from food.

In fact, there is some research stating that a diet deficient in choline actually causes fatty liver and liver cell death.

What Choline Does For Your Liver

And now for something a bit more technical.

As we’ve stated, the body can convert lecithin to choline. But it needs a little boost in the form of amino acids. This is particularly true of a person who has fatty liver disease. So, why does your body need choline?

Choline is essential in the production of phosphatidylcholine, a fat molecule called a phospholipid. But wait! Isn’t all fat bad? No – especially if it is essential to overall health and in particular, liver health.

Science is coming around to understanding that certain fats are necessary to the body – even an overweight and/or fatty liver compromised body. In this case, phosopatidylcholine is an essential component of the VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) particle – which our bodies need in order to move fat out of the liver.

Simply put – if you don’t have enough choline, your liver can’t move out fat. It instead begins to collect within your liver, creating fatty liver.

So, although you may think you’re eating fats when you eat eggs (and you are), this special class and type of fats are needed in order for you to get rid of some of the fat you already have. It sounds counter intuitive only because we have been led to believe, in recent decades, that all fat is bad. But science is now discovering that just isn’t true; some fats are required by the body and will actually move things along, not sit around on your hips, belly and thighs – and in your liver.

What About Supplements?

Though cholesterol isn’t necessarily the bad guy we’ve been led to believe it is (we’ll leave that for another article, though!), some individuals do indeed need to restrict their cholesterol. It’s up to you and your doctor to decide whether you will be restricting your cholesterol, and whether that restriction will include eggs.

For such individuals, choline supplements can be helpful. The jury is still out on how well supplemental nutrients work within the body versus nutrients derived from a food source, but if supplements are your only option, there is some good evidence that they can help. If you’re on a restricted diet, don’t leave choline out of the equation entirely – talk to your doctor about correct dosages of supplementation.

Best Sources of Choline

If you can’t or don’t like eggs, there are many food sources that contain choline. Though there is not yet a conclusive agreement on how much choline is needed by the body, an accepted amount is around 250 milligrams for children, 425 mg for adult women and 550 mg for adult men.

The best food sources, in order of serving size, are the following (3 ounces is about the size of a deck of cards). Though beef liver is listed first, remember that this is serving size. Ounce for ounce, eggs have 3 times the amount of meat*:

choline-sourcesBeef liver, 3 ounces – 355 mg

Large egg yolk – 147 mg

Quinoa, 1 cup – 119 mg

Soybeans,  3 ounces – 100 mg

Peanuts, 1 cup – 77 mg

Cod, 3 ounces – 71 mg

Tofu, 1 cup – 71 mg

Broccoli, 1 cup – 62 mg

Shrimp, 3 ounces – 60 mg

Salmon, 3 ounces – 56 mg

Skim Milk, 8 fl. oz. – 20 mg

* Source

Other moderate sources include leafy green vegetables, chicken, turkey, yellow mustard seed, toasted wheat germ cereal, bacon (YUM! but fatty and salty), and beef.

Helping Choline Along

If you’re already getting a good source of choline, you can help the process along in the following ways:

1. Exercise. Boosting your metabolism can have the effect of helping all your body’s processes, including the conversion of lecithin to choline and the liver’s own self-reparative capabilities.

2. Flush frequently. This means getting plenty of water so you can help flush toxins from your system, rather than making your compromised liver do all the work.

3. Reduce stress. Stress actually can have physical effects on your body – and not usually good ones. Meditate, change your attitude, and if possible, change what’s bothering you – i.e. a lower-stress job, better communication with your family or just releasing worries that you have no control over.

4. Eat right. That goes without saying, but getting plenty of vegetables and lean proteins are invaluable to your liver’s efforts in correcting its negative fatty condition.

5. Lose weight. This is paramount to correcting fatty liver. It will also lighten the load – literally – of your body’s ability to heal itself and stay healthy.

Most importantly, stay current on nutritional research. New information is being developed and tested daily by researchers invested in helping people get healthier. Don’t just discount a certain food because you’ve heard in the past that it “might be bad for you.” In fact, that very food could be a key to your health – eggs are the proof of that!

  • parker says:

    Finally, something I can eat that’s good for my liver. Thank you for the article. I have not been diagnosed with any of the conditions listed, but I did have a CT scan and my doc told me that my liver was fatty. Freaked me out and I have been doing research to find out how I can lower that. I don’t eat a lot of eggs due to my cholesterol being high, but like you said, they can’t make up their minds about it, so I figured I would check to see if they were good or bad for my liver. If they are good for my liver I’m going to eat them again more often. Again, thank you for your research into this. Much appreciated.

  • T.K.Ghosh says:

    Can A patient suffering from fatty liver grade 3 and high blood pressure eat eggs ?

    • Greg says:

      Grade 3 is getting into tricky territory…I’d definitely ask your doctor. It’s possible she will advise you to eat certain limited quantities.

  • Renee says:

    I have a question. My Dr said I have a fatty liver. Is there a difference between a fatty liver and fatty liver disease or are they the same thing. She also had me change my diet. High protein and to watch my cholesterol. So I’m doing low carbs since I need to lose weight anyway and now I’m drinking nothing but water. I eate boiled eggs but not the yolk because I don’t like them. Is this low carb the way to go?

    • Greg says:

      If your fatty liver is not related to alcohol consumption then it is almost certain your doctor was referring to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), so yes, in your case these would be the same thing.

      Low carb works for many people, but they have different reasons for doing it. Some do low carb due to attempting to lose weight, others due to various dietary restrictions, and some as part of an overall anti-inflammatory diet as such diets tend to be low on refined foods, hence, they wind up being lower on carbs as well, overall. So that really depends upon your own health and your doctor’s reasons.

      People have had success reducing or eliminating NAFLD in its beginning stages both as low-carbers and non-low-carbers.

      Good luck!

  • Joe says:

    It was suggested by my doctor that that I use the following nutritional guidelines for my fatty liver disease…..
    two days a week vegetarian, two days a week I can have chicken, two days a week I can have fish and one day a week I can have red meat in moderation. What are your thoughts on eggs? Can I have them in moderation any day or should I stick to chicken days?

    • Greg says:

      Since your doctor is being pretty strict with your diet, I would check with him/her first.

      That being said, the choline in eggs (barring any dietary restrictions) can be a real help to lessen an NAFLD condition.

  • Rg says:

    I was told that I should cut eggs out of my diet completely because of the high protein in them that will worsen my liver. With liver cirrhosis, not sure if this is true. I enjoy one egg breakfast sandwich every day and hate giving it up.

    • Greg says:

      If it is your doctor who told you to restrict protein due to your cirrhosis, then DON’T eat them. Certain cirrhosis patients should restrict their protein. Only our doctor knows for sure. What has she told you?

  • ali says:

    so if cholesterol (egg.beef.etc) wont cause a fat liver,so what dose ?

    • Greg says:

      Excess fat does (in a majority of cases). 🙂 Cholesterol itself does not make a person overweight. In a very simplified explanation, too many calories in v. out cause a person to be overweight. It’s true that “too many” will vary from person to person depending upon his/her health, height, gender, age and so on, it is excess intake v. output that will nearly always cause an overweight condition…not one constituent, such as cholesterol. Hope this helps.

  • Karl says:

    Eggs are good even with cholesterol
    Thank you
    I am have NAFLD

    • Greg says:

      Unless you have specific dietary restrictions per your doctor, yes, eggs are healthy and specifically as NAFLD goes, they contain choline, which is helpful and liver-supportive. Don’t have 10 a day, but the occasional egg should not hurt you and could help you, again, IF you have no dietary restrictions – ask your doctor.

  • Sameera says:

    My alt values are slightly elevated. Dr. Said could be because of inflammation. I don’t take alcohol. I have lupus but it is stable. I started eating eggs too every morning. I take 1 whole egg and 1 egg white.
    Is it okay for me to eat this daily.

    • Greg says:

      If your doctor has approved the eggs, yes, it should be fine as far as your liver goes. Eggs contain choline, which is liver-protective unless other issues are present.

  • abhishek says:

    is eating eggs beneficial in a condition of enlarged lever & little increased sgpt

    • Greg says:

      It can be. What’s good about eggs is that they contain choline, which helps fight fatty liver/improve liver health. Do you have any dietary restrictions?

  • Nabin says:

    I came to know how eggs are good for health. So far I thought eggs are bed for those who suffer from liver disease. I started eating eags after reading your suggestions and thereafter I begin to fill better. Thanks for your good suggestions.

    • Greg says:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying your eggs! I eat eggs regularly. They’re not a HUGE part of my diet but after my research when I was initially diagnosed with NAFLD, I stopped fearing them. 😉

  • stephen says:

    are duck eggs better than hen eggs they have a much bigger yolk

    • Greg says:

      I actually haven’t done any research on the comparison between these two types of eggs (are you referring to the choline level?). Let us know what you come up with.

  • Doreen Porter says:

    I eat eggs but I eat beef liver now didn’t like it before but I know it is good for fatty liver all the vitamin in it.

  • Ruth says:

    I have NASH (non-alcoholic) fatty liver disease.
    My Dr told me 800mg vitamins E everyday helps bring down the high levels, of course with diet change and excersize. I was not sure about eggs so I’m glad for this artical. Thank you!

  • Sharon Robbins says:

    I have a fatty liver,are pickled eggs ok to eat with beets?

    • Greg says:

      Pickled items can be very acidic and hard on some people’s systems, so your results may vary, but if you can handle them, these should be fine. Eggs are GREAT for liver health as they have choline. Beets without the pickling should be fine for most people.

  • prasad says:

    My son 16 year old and last year diagnosed with fatty liver 3rd grade and mri shows his liver have 31% fat and inflammation. His cholesterol is high .He is obese unable to reduce weight that is 105kgs insulin resistance. We are reading all your suggestions and really hope to get some advice please it will be really helpful.thanks in advance.

    • Greg says:

      31% is very high. I wish I could advise you, but I don’t answer questions related to minor-age individuals. Do take your son back to the doctor regularly regarding this issue and don’t give up. A parent is always a child’s best asset. 🙂

      • Frank Hughes says:

        What Eggs can you eat to make scrambled eggs with that will be just as health?

        • Greg says:

          Please check out our article on choline. Eggs are an excellent source of choline in any form. Just be sure to eat the yolks. 🙂

      • flora says:

        Start giving your son…
        1. high dose of probiotics (ex. 40 billions and more a capsule, they reduce craving for sweets and bad carbs and they help multiply good bacteria in the gut), do it daily
        2. give PGX or some other fiber supplement that fills up his stomach with fiber and not food
        3. lots of fruits and veggies, buy a juicer and start juicing (try less sugar fruits)
        4. sugar is out of the question, and same with burgers, breads, pasta, rice…
        5. start giving him GARLIC pills (natural kinds) and oregano oil pills (Reduce appetite and increase immune system). hope this helps.
        I am struggleing with weight too and that’s what helped me too.

  • Naomi piper says:

    how many eggs in 1 meal/or how many eggs a week?

    • Greg says:

      The only thing you really have to worry about with eggs is cholesterol, but more recent studies such as this, from Harvard says that there is no problem with this (it’s a long article, so click Ctrl+F on your keyboard and type in egg). So there really is no limit, but my philosophy is “everything in moderation” – I usually have two eggs twice or three times a week. Boiled, not fried.

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