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Vitamin E can fight fatty liver disease in kids

Posted by Elizebath Bijoy Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Washington: A specific form of Vitamin E can improve the most severe form of fatty liver disease in some children.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver disease among US children. It ranges in severity from steatosis (fat in the liver without injury) to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH (fat, inflammation and liver damage).

The symptoms of NAFLD and NASH are identical. They are very bland and non-specific. They can occur at any adult age and, in children, usually appear after 10 years of age. 

Fatty liver increases a child's risk of developing heart disease and liver cirrhosis. The only way to distinguish NASH from other forms of fatty liver disease is with a liver biopsy. 

Using liver biopsies, researchers found that after 96 weeks of treatment, 58 percent of the children on Vitamin E no longer had NASH, compared to 41 percent of the children on metformin (a diabetes drug), and 28 percent on placebo. 

Vitamin E was better than placebo because it significantly reduced enlargement and death of liver cells, reports the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

'These results suggest that Vitamin E improves or resolves NASH in at least half of children, which we previously showed to be true in adults,' said Stephen P. James, director of the digestive diseases at National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), which funded the study. 

Weight loss may reverse the disease in some children, but other than dietary advice, there are no specific treatments. Excess fat in the liver is believed to cause injury by increasing levels of oxidants, compounds that damage cells, according to an NIDDK statement. 

The Treatment of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Children (TONIC) trial studied whether Vitamin E (an antioxidant) or metformin could improve fatty liver disease. 

Most children with fatty liver disease are overweight and resistant to insulin, a critical hormone that regulates energy. Boys are more likely to be affected than girls. 

Reference: Health news article


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