In those with fatty liver disease, a person’s fat goes to their liver instead of their fat tissue, either because of an absence of fat depots, which is seen in the rare genetic disease lipodystrophy, or because the depots are too full, which is seen in people with obesity.
One third of these people will go on to develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH – an advanced form of fatty liver disease brought on by progressive inflammation and scarring in the organ.
In a new study from the University of Michigan, researchers found a new potential therapy for fatty liver disease
In 2002, the team found that patients with severe lipodystrophy lack leptin, a hormone that helps curb appetite and control weight gain.
Lipodystrophy is a health problem where there is an abnormal distribution of fat in the body.
When given leptin as a supplement, the patient’s serious metabolic abnormalities like NASH improved strongly
In the current study, they found that patients with NASH and relatively low leptin levels can mobilize the extra fat in their liver, out of their liver, and help reverse their condition by undergoing leptin therapy.
The team tested the effect of leptin in both those with familial partial lipodystrophy and those that just present with NASH.
The trials consisted of male patients because 35-40% of the men that had leptin levels measured had levels less than the twenty-fifth percentile of their body weight, making them ideal study candidates.
Both groups were found to have reduced fat in the liver and lower NASH scores after 12 months of leptin therapy. The patients also had improved insulin sensitivity and body weight.
The findings are only applicable to leptin, but the team thinks other molecules or treatments that activate leptin in the body could be of focus in future studies in an attempt to widen the therapeutic window for these patients.
After obesity is established, there’s little gain by giving someone leptin.
However, a patient in the early overweight state may get value from undergoing leptin therapy, inspiring the research team to study leptin as a preventive weight control option in those at risk of crossing the obesity threshold and developing more fat in the liver.
If you care about liver health, please read studies about this diet may reduce non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by 50% and findings of this painkiller may affect your liver health much more than expected.
For more information about liver disease prevention and treatment, please see recent studies about the key to stopping the silent killer of liver disease and results showing that this nutrient supplement may help treat fatty liver disease.
The study is published in Med: Cell Press. One author of the study is Elif Oral, M.D.
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