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Link Made Between Roundup and Liver Disease

NEWS  May 15, 2019 | Original story by Debra Kamin for the University of California - San Diego Health.

Credit: Pixabay.

Glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s popular weed killer Roundup, has been linked to liver disease in animal models. In a new study, the first of its kind, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine report an association between the herbicide and negative effects upon the human liver.

In a study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology , a team led by Paul J. Mills, PhD, professor and chief in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine, examined glyphosate excretion in the urine samples of two patient groups — those with a diagnosis of NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a type of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD), and those without. The results, they found, were significant: Regardless of age, race, body mass index (BMI), ethnicity or diabetes status, glyphosate residue was significantly higher in patients with NASH than it was in patients with a healthier liver.

The findings, coupled with prior animal studies, said Mills, suggest a link between the use of commercial glyphosate in our food supply, which has increased significantly over the past 25 years, and the prevalence of NAFLD in the United States, which too has been on the rise for two decades.

“There have been a handful of studies, all of which we cited in our paper, where animals either were or weren’t fed Roundup or glyphosate directly, and they all point to the same thing: the development of liver pathology,” said Mills. “So I naturally thought: ‘Well, could it be exposure to this same herbicide that is driving liver disease in the U.S.?’”

The study examined urine samples of 93 patients. Forty-one percent were male; 42 percent were white or Caucasian; 35 percent were Hispanic or Latino. Average BMI was 31.8. Patients were originally recruited as part of a larger study at the UC San Diego NAFLD Research Center conducted between 2012 and 2018. Liver biopsies were used to determine the presence or absence of NAFLD while classifying the subjects by cohort.

Mills plans to next put a group of patients on an all-organic diet and track them over the course of several months, examining how a herbicide-free diet might affect biomarkers of liver disease.

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the United States; it was developed and patented by agrochemical giant Monsanto in the 1970s and its sales represent approximately 50 percent of the company’s annual revenue.

“The increasing levels [of glyphosate] in people’s urine very much correlates to the consumption of Roundup treated crops into our diet,” said Mills. But while researchers say this study shows a link between herbicide exposure and liver disease in human subjects, Mills said much work remains to be done.

“There are so many synthetic chemicals we are regularly exposed to,” he said. “We measured just one.”

This article has been republished from materials provided by University of California - San Diego Health. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

Reference Glyphosate Excretion is Associated With Steatohepatitis and Advanced Liver Fibrosis in Patients With Fatty Liver Disease. Paul J. Mills, Cyrielle Caussy, Rohit Loomba. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology,

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MAY 21, 2019Patrick Campbell

Benjamin Click, MD

Patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) may be at an increased risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NALFD), nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and nonalcoholic cirrhosis (NC), according to a study presented at Digestive Disease Week 2019.

In an analysis of more than 62,000,000, investigators from the Cleveland Clinic found that prevalence rates of NAFLD, NASH, and NC among patients with UC were more than double that of the general population.

After observing what appeared to be an increasing prevalence of liver disease in patients with UC in their own practices, investigators sought to determine if UC patients were at an increased risk of NAFLD, NASH, and NC. 

"It's becoming an increasingly common finding in my clinical practice, it's also increasingly recognized that with ulcerative colitis the increased gut permeability and the inflammation that goes along with the disease process, as well as the medication we use that carry certain hepatotoxicity, may convey an increased risk for chronic liver disease in our patient populations," explained Benjamin Click, MD, study author and associate staff gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic in an interview with MD Magazine. 

Investigators used electronic health record data, obtained through a commercial database, from 26 major US heal care systems to identify patients with a diagnosis of UC from 1999 to 2018.  Patients were identified with a Systemized Nomenclature of Medicine — Clinical Terms diagnosis of UC. Investigators used logistic regression of demographic and metabolic comorbidities to identify potential risk factors. Additionally, prevalence rates of first ever diagnosis of NAFLD, NASH, and NC after 30 days of UC diagnosis with the general population from the commercial database. 

A total of 62,781,880 individuals were included within the database and investigators identified 125,380 (.2%) individuals with UC, 467,060 (0.74%) with NAFLD, 35,890 (0.06%) with NASH, and 169,700 (0.27%) with NC. The prevalence of NAFLD, NASH, and NC were significantly higher among individuals with UC than the general population group. In individuals with UC, 1.95% had NALFD, .23% had NASH, and 1.01% had a diagnosis of NC. 

After comparing patients with UC patients with and without NAFLD, investigators found patients with NAFLD were more likely to be Caucasian with comorbid diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Investigators found no significant difference in sex or age when comparing patient groups. 

UC patients with NASH were more likely to be Caucasian, 65 or older, with comorbid DM, obesity and HTN compared to patients without NASH. Investigators noted there was no significant sex differences. UC patients with NC were more likely to be males, African American, and elderly. 

From their data, investigators concluded that the prevalence of NAFLD, NASH, and NC is significantly increased in UC compared to the general population. Within their conclusion, authors noted that additional studies were needed to assess the impact and interaction of IBD, medications, and the evolution of NAFLD. 

“Patients with ulcerative colitis are at a significantly increased risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease compared to the general population is a critical take home point in terms of recognition and potentially treatment,” Click said. 

This study, titled “Nonalcoholic liver disease significantly more prevalent in ulcerative colitis: a population-based study,” was presented at DDW 2019 in San Diego, CA. 

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