Chocolate Shake and Blueberry Pie...... or why Your Liver Would Love it

Olav A Gressner


“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Proclaimed nobody less than Hippocrates, the Ancient Greek philosopher and doctor about 460 B.C. And indeed, the daily food intake is the most important exchange of our organism with the environment. Today, we know that the choice of comestible goods is an important contributor to our well-being and that the targeted use of specific nutrients and other bioactive molecules (e.g. secondary plant products) significantly helps in the regulation of metabolic processes in a variety of situations of particular requirements. However, next to a health protective diet, identifying the chemical compounds of a healthy natural food product allows us to characterize those compounds that are potential candidates for a new drug, and manufacturing it artificially, we can then change its structure in several different ways to see if we can improve its effectiveness or gain new insights as to how to design a more effective drug of a similar type. Chronic liver diseases are the fifth most frequent cause of death in the European Union, mostly caused by chronic alcohol abuse or virus hepatitides. Liver fibrosis, and ultimately liver cirrhosis, is the common end-stage of all chronic liver diseases. As chronic liver diseases entail multiple risks, such as portal hypertension, ascites, hepatic encephalopathy and, of course, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), pharmaceutical intervention at the stage of fibrogenesis therefore remains a major task in today’s medicine. This review focusses on established components of Western food, such as Curry, Coffee or Chocolate, in terms of their hepatoprotective effects and discusses the biochemical background of the epidemiological observations. It hopefully triggers both, motivation and curiosity, to open a new discussion on the future of the pharmacological treatment of chronic liver diseases and on the development of drugs based on natural compounds.

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