Hair dye and smoking linked to liver damage… but head out for a curry for some protection

Hair dye and smoking could damage the liver, experts said today, but the Indian spice curcumin may slow down the progress of liver disease.

One study examined the effect of curcumin – which gives the curry spice turmeric its bright yellow colour – on disease in mice while a second looked at the effects of smoking and hair dye use among humans.

Curcumin has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine – practised on the Indian subcontinent – to treat a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders.

Food health: Curcumin, which gives turmeric its colour, has been credited with slowing the rate of liver damage

Food health: Curcumin, which gives turmeric its colour, has been credited with slowing the rate of liver damage

Previous studies also suggested it has anti-inflammatory properties and works as an antioxidant.

The latest study, published in the journal Gut, looked at damage to the liver caused by progressive inflammatory illnesses, including primary sclerosing cholangitis and primary biliary cirrhosis.

These conditions can be triggered by genetic faults or autoimmune disease, causing the liver’s bile ducts to become inflamed, scarred and blocked.

The damage to the tissues can be irreversible and cause progression to liver cirrhosis, which can be fatal.

Experts from Austria and the US studied tissue and blood samples taken from mice with chronic liver inflammation.

The samples were looked at before and after adding curcumin to their diet for a period of four or eight weeks.

Being fed curcumin led to fewer blockages of the bile duct and less damage to cells in the liver and scarring, the research found. No such effects were seen in mice fed a normal diet.

There were no extra benefits if the mice were fed curcumin for eight weeks rather than four.

The second study, by Manchester and Newcastle researchers, also published in Gut, related to research on more than 4,600 people, assessing their risk of primary biliary cirrhosis.

Smoking increased the risk by 63 per cent while hair dye increased the risk by 37 per cent, the experts found.

Participants in the study were not asked how often they dyed their hair and it is unclear which part of the hair dye may be responsible for the effect, the experts said.

However, previous studies have noted a link between cirrhosis and a chemical found in cosmetics called octynoic acid, which is used in hair dye and nail polish.

Previous bouts of urinary infection, psoriasis and shingles also increased the risk as did auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid and coeliac diseases.


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