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Liver Spots & Cellular Deterioration

Look down at your hands, do you see any small, dark flat dots on your skin? Many of us know these pesky little spots as liver spots. These little marks typically appear as we age.

But did you know that liver spots are actually a marker of cellular deterioration on not only the skin, but throughout the entire body?

old people, liver spots, aging, functional health

Liver spots 101:

Liver spots, or age spots, are small, dark, flat dots that typically appear on regions of the body that get a lot of sun exposure. Common areas are on the skin of the hands, face, shoulders, and chest. Liver spots are also known as age spots, sunspots, and solar lentigines. They are characterized by flat, oval areas of increased pigmentation on the skin that range in color from tan to dark brown. Liver spots are also similar in size to freckles. But, unlike freckles, liver spots will not fade in color over time.

While these dark splotches on the skin can sometimes look similar in appearance to melanoma, they are not cancerous and are not harmful. And no, despite the name, liver spots have nothing to do with the liver. While originally, there were thought to be a warning sign for liver problems, we now know they are not correlated. However, recent findings have suggested that liver spots are actually forms of cellular deterioration, which can act as warning signs for your overall health.

People of any race, age, and sex can develop these dark spots. However, they are more common in those with the following risk factors:

  • Having a history of continual sun exposure

  • Being 40 years or older

  • Having fair colored skin

  • Having a history of continual tanning bed use

Liver spots and cellular deterioration:

To examine liver spots as a form of cellular deterioration, you must first understand the effects of age on long-lived cells. These are cells that do not get replaced, rather, they are faced with the challenge of needing to recycle and can accumulation waste. As we age, parts of every long-lived cell get worn out and damaged. This is caused by free radicals, oxidants, and other toxins. Eventually, all parts of the cell, especially the mitochondria, begin to fail.

Luckily, there are mechanisms in place to repair such damage and recycle failing or dead organelles. This process is called autophagy. Autophagy literally translates to “self eat”, which exactly is what happens in the process. It is a form of evolutionary self-preservation, in which the body removes unnecessary cells and recycles parts of them towards repair and cleaning. This process begins with the engulfing of dead or dying proteins or organelles. Next, these contents are degraded into amino acids and recycled into new proteins.

The human body is in a constant state of self-renewal; some researchers estimate that at any given time 1 to 2% of all proteins are being recycled. Autophagy is an incredibly useful process for the human body.

But despite this high rate of recycling, there are some things that cannot be recycled. This material cannot be reused, recycled, or destroyed, so what happens to it? The excess waste material, made up of proteins, lipids, and metals, gets compacted together and becomes even more non-digestible. From there, this clump of junk just sits there, wasting valuable space. This junk is also known as lipofuscin.

Lipofuscin impacts the body in several ways by just sitting there:

  1. It is used as a marker for age. As more and more waste material builds up, it appears as dark blotches or spots on the skin. But lipofuscin doesn't just accumulate on the skin, it's actually also found in tissues within the heart, nerves, and brain.

  2. If too much lipofuscin builds up within a cell, it will become overwhelmed and unable to perform its tasks. One study found that aged animal cells are 40% lipofuscin. Some samples of human neurons have been found to be up to 75% lipofuscin. As such cells are filled with lipofuscin, they lose their capacity to function. Functions like autophagy are ceased. This will cause the cell to become even more damaged and subsequently result in the death of long-lived cells.

Several studies have already demonstrated this to be true. In tissues samples of areas with liver and other age spots, autophagy was found to be at significantly lower levels of activity. This lack of autophagy points to a buildup of lipofuscin causing the cells to lose function.

Preventing liver spots:

In regards to reducing liver spots by reducing the damaging effects of lipofuscin, researchers have found a promising supplement that will reverse the buildup and return cell function. After rats were fed the natural chemical curcumin for one month, the researchers saw dramatic decreases in the accumulation of lipofuscin. The older rats saw:

  • A 60% decrease of lipofuscin in the cerebellum

  • A 40% decrease of lipofuscin in the medulla

  • A 24% decrease of lipofuscin in the cerebral cortex

  • An 18% decrease of lipofuscin in the hippocampus

These are obviously astonishing findings, made more so by the removal of all lipofuscin in some of the rats. Further, as demonstrated by this progress made in the brain, curcumin has the ability to decrease and remove the buildup of lipofuscin throughout the body, including places like cardiac muscles, skeletal muscles, pancreatic cells, and retinal pigment cells.

If you have a collection of liver spots on your hands, arms, chest, or face, you should take note that your body is probably warning you of some deeper cellular damage occurring globally.

For more information, click here to contact us or call 276-235-3205 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute discovery call!

The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach / Norfolk locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!


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