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Common Liver Disease Responds to Vitamin E


Vitamin E May Be of Help in Common Liver Disease:

Over the years the medicinal qualities of vitamin E have been both praised and criticized. For decades there has been a debate whether this vitamin could prevent cancer or heart disease. Large studies have pretty much determined that cancer and heart disease don’t respond to vitamin E supplementation. For that reason many physicians believe that vitamin E treatment is worthless for any purpose. This assumption is incorrect. For example, a recent study in the New England of Medicine has shown vitamin E to be of great use in the treatment of a common liver disease resulting from fat accumulation in the liver (steatosis).

The liver normally store some fat but in excess it can lead to inflammation of the liver, a condition called steatohepatitis. In up to 15% of those with steatohepatitis, cirrhosis and liver failure can result. Steatohepatitis itself is relatively common. In my endocrinology practice several patients per day show evidence of this liver disease, manifested as abnormalities on routine liver blood tests. Patients most likely to show characteristic abnormalities on liver blood tests are those with high cholesterol (particularly if taking the cholesterol lowering medications known as statins), diabetes, and obesity. If the blood tests are particularly abnormal an ultrasound of the liver is usually obtained to be sure nothing else is occurring, such as liver cancer or cirrhosis. Simple steatosis itself is generally easy to diagnose on the ultrasound.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine (Volume 362, No. 18) demonstrates that vitamin E is beneficial for treating steatohepatitis. 247 subjects with evidence of steatohepatitis not due to alcohol use or diabetes were given various treatments. The group getting 800 IU vitamin E per day showed a 43% improvement in measures of steatohepatitis. Also examined as a possible treatment for steatohepatitis was Actos (pioglitazone), a popular diabetes drug. Although the results with Actos were promising they weren’t as good as the results with Vitamin E.

As always, the researchers conclude that further studies will be needed to confirm this benefit. Before using vitamin E in your own program be sure to check with your physician first. Vitamin E can act like a blood thinner, so its use in people who have bleeding abnormalities or on drugs that influence blood clotting, is of particular concern.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. The disclaimer for metabolism.com applies to this and all my posts.

Gary Pepper, M.D., Editor-in-Chief, metabolism.com

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