Weight Loss Reverses Fatty Liver Disease (NASH)

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A new study reveals that weight loss has the ability to improve fatty liver disease.

Saint Louis University researchers discovered that a loss of 9% of body weight can lead to reversal of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is a type of liver disease.

NASH occurs more frequently than people know about. It is dubbed as the silent liver disease because people usually discover its presence only when it has already done its damage. NASH is similar to alcoholic liver disease. The difference is that it can develop even if there is no consumption of alcoholic beverages. This condition is characterized by the presence of fat in the liver which causes this vital organ to become inflamed, damaged and not able to work properly. It affects 2-5% of Americans.

The Results of the Conducted Study

Fifty patients suffering with NASH were given instructions to consume a 1,400-calorie diet as well as a vitamin A supplement. Half of the group was also given Orlistat, a weight loss over-the-counter pill. After 36 weeks, liver biopsies were conducted to see if there were any changes in the liver.

Orlistat works by limiting the body’s ability to absorb fat. This leads to weight loss. The results showed that the medication did not directly result in a healthier liver. However, it did result in a loss of weight, which is linked with the improvement of the condition of the liver. In addition to this, those who lost more than five percent of the body weight over a period of nine months also experienced improvements in their insulin resistance and steatosis (accumulation of fat in the liver). Those with at least nine percent loss reversed the liver damage.

These results, which came from a study of the diet drug Orlistat (marketed as a prescription under the trade name Xenical by Roche or over-the-counter as Alli by GlaxoSmithKline), are considered significant in that doctors now can give their patients a specific weight-loss goal in order to improve the quality of their liver. Nine per cent of body weight loss is enough to dramatically improve the patient’s liver condition. It removes doubt that weight loss can lead to a healthier liver.

According to one of the researchers of the study, Brent Neuschwander-Tetri, M.D. who is also a Saint Louis University hepatologist, “it is a helpful study because we can now give patients a benchmark, a line they need to cross to see improvement.”

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