Vitamin B may help treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

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Scientists from Duke-NUS Medical School found a mechanism that leads to an advanced form of fatty liver disease—and it turns out that vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements could reverse this process.

These findings could help people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol.

The research is published in the Journal of Hepatology and was conducted by Dr. Madhulika Tripathi et al.

The non-alcoholic fatty liver disease involves fat build-up in the liver and is a leading cause of liver transplants worldwide.

Its high prevalence is due to its association with diabetes and obesity. When the condition progresses to inflammation and scar tissue formation, it is known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Currently, there are no medical treatments for NASH because scientists don’t understand the mechanics of the disease.

Although scientists know that NASH is linked to elevated blood levels of an amino acid called homocysteine, they didn’t know what role, if any, it plays in the development of the disorder.

In the study, the team confirmed the association of homocysteine with NASH progression in preclinical models and humans.

They also found that, as homocysteine levels increased in the liver, the amino acid attached to various liver proteins, changed their structure and impeded their functioning.

In particular, when homocysteine is attached to a protein, it blocked the protein from performing its role of transporting and digesting fat in fatty acid metabolism and inflammation prevention.

This induced the development and progression of fatty liver disease to NASH.

Importantly, the researchers found that supplementing the diet with vitamin B12 and folic acid slowed NASH progression and reversed liver inflammation and fibrosis.

The findings suggest that a relatively inexpensive therapy, vitamin B12 and folic acid, could be used to prevent and/or delay the progression of NASH.

If you care about liver health, please read studies about how to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and this ultrasound therapy could stop liver cancer spread.

For more information about liver health, please see recent studies about how to prevent liver disease with diet and lifestyle changes, and results showing what you need to know about cirrhosis (scarred liver).

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