Weight loss reverses fatty liver disease, study shows

February 20th, 2009 - 6:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 20 (IANS) Researchers found that weight loss of at least nine percent of body weight helped patients reverse a fatty liver disease known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH.
The finding comes from a study of the diet drug orlistat (also known as Xenical and Alli), which did not itself improve liver disease.

Brent Neuschwander-Tetri, hepatologist at Saint Louis University (SLU) Liver Centre and study co-author, said: “It’s a helpful study because we can now give patients a benchmark, a line they need to cross to see improvement.”

The study looked at patients with NASH, characterised by excessive fat, causing inflammation and damage in the liver.

Researchers set out to see if orlistat, which limits fat absorption, along with calorie restriction would lead to weight loss and check liver disease in overweight patients with NASH, which was determined by a liver biopsy.

Fifty patients participated in the study, with all instructed to consume a 1,400 calorie diet and vitamin E, and half also receiving orlistat for 36 weeks, at which time liver biopsies were repeated.

While orlistat itself was not linked directly to improved liver health, weight loss was, and, further, researchers were able to pin-point the percentage of weight loss needed to improve liver damage.

Patients who lost five percent or more of body weight over nine months showed improvement in insulin resistance and steatosis (fat accumulation in the liver), and those who lost at least nine percent showed reversal of their liver damage, said an SLU release.

The data about the drug orlistat was less clear. Those in the orlistat group lost 8.3 percent body weight and those in the other group lost six percent body weight, not a statistically significant difference. As for liver disease, orlistat did not itself improve liver enzymes, measures of insulin resistance or reverse liver damage.

These findings were published in the January edition of Hepatology.

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