If you’re familiar with alcohol testing, you may have heard of CDT levels.
CDT, or carbohydrate-deficient transferrin, is a biomarker that can indicate prolonged heavy alcohol consumption.
For those who are concerned about their CDT levels, there are various methods and remedies that claim to reduce them.
One such remedy is milk thistle, a plant commonly used in herbal medicine.
But does milk thistle actually reduce CDT levels?
In this article, we’ll explore the research and evidence behind this claim, as well as other potential benefits of milk thistle.
Does Milk Thistle Reduce CDT Levels?
While there are anecdotal reports of milk thistle reducing CDT levels, the scientific evidence is limited and inconclusive.
One study suggested that milk thistle may have affected the predecessor to the current CDT test, but the current method uses different metrics and is not likely to be affected by milk thistle.
Furthermore, a study on a patient undergoing medical therapy found that milk thistle may actually hamper the identification of chronic alcohol abusers by CDT.
While milk thistle may have potential benefits for liver health and other conditions such as high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, more research is needed to confirm these claims.
Understanding CDT Levels And Alcohol Consumption
CDT, or carbohydrate-deficient transferrin, is a blood test used to detect heavy alcohol use. Normally, only about 1-2% of transferrin is carbohydrate-deficient, but heavy drinking can increase this percentage up to 10%. Studies have found that a %CDT of 2.6% and higher is indicative of heavy drinking, and about 50-70% of heavy drinkers will have a %CDT greater than 2.6%.
Elevated CDT levels are suggestive of recent alcohol abuse, and can be useful for long-term monitoring and early detection of relapse drinking during medical treatment. CDT testing can also aid in the assessment for reinstating driver licenses or in identifying chronic alcoholics among traumatized patients.
CDT quantitation is a specific marker for alcohol exposure and can be an effective tool for the early diagnosis of chronic alcohol misuse, detecting patients addicted to alcohol, and following up on treatment and diagnosis of alcohol relapse. On stopping alcohol consumption, the CDT level goes back to normal after two to four weeks. If the patient starts drinking after withdrawal, CDT increases in a few days.
It’s important to note that elevated CDT levels are not always caused by alcohol abuse and can require further investigations. False positives are rare, but there can be several causes of increased CDT levels other than alcohol misuse, including advanced cholestic liver disease, transferrin variants, and carbohydrate-deficient glycoprotein syndrome.
What Is Milk Thistle And How Does It Work?
Milk thistle, also known as Silybum marianum, is a flowering herb that is native to Europe but can also be found in other parts of the world. The active ingredient in milk thistle is silymarin, which is a complex of flavonolignans including silybin, silydianin, and silychristin. Silybin is the most biologically active component and makes up 50-70% of silymarin.
Silymarin has been extensively studied for its potential benefits for liver health. It acts as an antioxidant by reducing free radical production and lipid peroxidation. It also has antifibrotic activity and may act as a toxin blockade agent by inhibiting binding of toxins to the hepatocyte cell membrane receptors. Animal studies have shown that silymarin can reduce liver injury caused by various toxins, including alcohol.
In addition to its potential benefits for liver health, milk thistle has also been studied for its effects on heart health and blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Preliminary studies suggest that milk thistle may help lower high cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation within the arteries. It may also have properties that can lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
However, while there are anecdotal reports that milk thistle can reduce CDT levels (a marker for chronic alcohol use), scientific evidence is limited and inconclusive. One study suggested that milk thistle may have affected the predecessor to the current CDT test, but the current method uses different metrics and is not likely to be affected by milk thistle. Another study found that milk thistle may actually hamper the identification of chronic alcohol abusers by CDT.
Research On Milk Thistle’s Effect On CDT Levels
Research on milk thistle’s effect on CDT levels is limited and inconclusive. A systematic review concluded that milk thistle had no significant effects on mortality in patients with alcoholic liver disease or chronic hepatitis B or C and was not associated with an increased risk of adverse events.
One study suggested that the predecessor to the current CDT test could be affected (i.e. made to appear lower) by taking milk thistle, but the current method uses completely different metrics. Another study found that milk thistle may actually hamper the identification of chronic alcohol abusers by CDT.
While there are anecdotal reports of milk thistle reducing CDT levels, more research is needed to confirm these claims. It is important to note that milk thistle may have potential benefits for liver health and other conditions such as high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, but caution should be taken with its use as it can lower blood sugar levels and affect estrogen levels in the body. People with type 1 diabetes, pregnant individuals, and those with endocrinological conditions should consult their healthcare provider before taking milk thistle.
Other Potential Benefits Of Milk Thistle
In addition to its potential benefits for liver health, milk thistle has been studied for its effects on a variety of other conditions. For example, research has suggested that milk thistle may have anti-inflammatory properties, which could make it beneficial for people with autoimmune diseases or conditions such as asthma. Milk thistle may also help to support healthy antioxidant levels in liver cells, promote bile flow, aid digestion, protect the kidneys, and provide anti-inflammatory support.
Some studies have also suggested that milk thistle may be useful for managing high cholesterol levels and type 2 diabetes. In one study, people with type 2 diabetes who took a milk thistle supplement saw improvements in their blood sugar levels and markers of liver function compared to those who took a placebo.
However, it’s important to note that more research is needed to confirm these potential benefits of milk thistle. While the available evidence is promising, it’s not yet clear how effective milk thistle may be for these conditions or how it compares to other treatments. As with any supplement or medication, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before taking milk thistle or any other new supplement.
Risks And Precautions When Using Milk Thistle
It is important to exercise caution when using milk thistle, as it may interact with certain medications and have potential side effects.
Milk thistle may interact with drugs that are processed by the liver enzyme CYP3A4, such as protease inhibitors and non-nukes used in HIV/AIDS treatment. This interaction can lead to higher-than-expected levels of drugs in the body, causing unpleasant or even dangerous side effects.
In addition, milk thistle may lower the levels of certain drugs, such as anti-parasite drugs, sedatives/sleeping pills, and hormones like estrogen.
While adverse effects of milk thistle are generally minor, some people may experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and bloating. Allergic reactions are rare but possible.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using milk thistle due to insufficient evidence on its safety in these populations.
It is important to speak with a healthcare provider before using milk thistle, especially if you are taking any medications or have a medical condition. They can help determine if milk thistle is safe and appropriate for you, and advise on the proper dosage and duration of use.
Conclusion: Should You Try Milk Thistle To Reduce CDT Levels?
Based on the current scientific evidence, it is not recommended to use milk thistle as a means to reduce CDT levels. While some studies suggest that milk thistle may have potential benefits for liver health, there is no conclusive evidence that it can significantly impact CDT levels. Additionally, there is some evidence that milk thistle may actually hinder the identification of chronic alcohol abusers by CDT. Therefore, if you are looking to reduce your CDT levels, it is best to speak with your healthcare provider about other effective methods and treatments.