Cute they maybe, but deadly to eat! Last night, The Polar Bear Family & Me was on BBC Two and since it also happens to be Liver Awareness month I thought I would share this top tip with you: Never Eat a Polar Bears Liver. Now okay, not likely to happen down the high street, but should you find yourself in this unusual circumstance be warned!
So why is it so lethal? Arctic predators such as polar bears have a greater capacity to store vitamin A in their liver than most other animals. It is thought to be because of the effect of naturally occurring vitamin A in marine algae being passed up the food chain to the polar bear. So great is the polar bears ability to store this vitamin that if you were to consume the liver, you would more than likely succumb to the effects of Hypervitaminosis A. Put simply it would be too much vitamin A for your body to handle & and you would suffer from vitamin A poisoning. Symptoms of this include liver & bone damage, hair loss, double vision, vomiting and headaches.
However don’t panic and avoid Vitamin A altogether as it is essential for growth & normal development. In particular it is important for our eyes and fight infections. If we don’t get enough it can lead to night blindness. The estimated average requirement for vitamin A in adult females is 400µg per day & 500 µg per day in males. In doses over 100mg in children or 300mg for adults it can become toxic.
Good Sources of Vitamin A to eat regularly include: oily fish, eggs, fortified low fat spreads, milk, yoghurt, liver and cheese -in small amounts.
For most people an overdose of the vitamin from their diet would be unlikely however as a precaution pregnant women should take care to avoid vitamin A supplements (unless advised otherwise by a doctor), liver & liver products since they contain high levels of Vitamin A. Too much of which can have a negative effect on the developing baby.
Why you should love your liver
The liver is the largest organ in the body and a healthy liver is kept busy performing various jobs, over 500 to be precise! The liver acts like a factory in the body performing tasks such as creating proteins, blood clotting factors and other products which aid with digestion and energy release. It also acts a storage facility for vitamins, iron & energy. The liver helps to control blood sugar levels, it cleanses infections from the blood & helps to neutralise drugs & toxins that enter the body.
How to love your liver
If you want to show your liver you love it then you should familiarise yourself with some of its friends and foes.
Friends of the liver
We all know that exercise is a great way to get fit and lose weight. Carrying around excess weight and especially visceral (body fat) is a risk factor for liver damage. Therefore maintaining a healthy weight is a great way to reduce your risk. By exercising and moderating your diet you are likely to lose more fat than with just diet or exercise alone. As well as slimming down you may also be helping to remove fat from around the liver. In doing so you are helping to optimise the functions of the liver which means you’re helping to keep the factory running efficiently.
Nutrient Rich Diet
Reducing saturated fats, sugars and processed foods will reduce extra stress on the liver. Eating a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates: brown rice and pasta, wholemeal bread, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds and lean proteins can boost the function of the liver to improve it from working like it was riding a toy bike with wooden wheels to a Olympian Velodrome cyclist!
Fluids as per recommended (1.5 to 2 litres) helps keep the body toxins flushed through the system.
Foes of the liver
Each time your liver filters alcohol some of the liver cells die. Despite this the liver is very resilient and providing it has no lasting damage it can repair itself very quickly. It can take as little as 24 hrs to go back to normal. However, over time prolonged alcohol misuse can cause serious damage. You can help your liver by not binge drinking and giving yourself 2-3 days in a row off from drinking alcohol. This will keep your total intake down and gives your liver time to recover.
Drugs can have detrimental effects too, so follow the advice from your GP or pharmacist.