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Vitamin E Helps Treat Common Liver Disease
Date:4/28/2010

But only effective in less than half of cases, study finds

WEDNESDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- A new study has identified vitamin E as a treatment that can provide relief for many of the estimated 10 million Americans who have the most common chronic liver disease.

"This clearly shows that vitamin E is effective for treatment of patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis who don't have active diabetes," said study author Dr. Arun J. Sanyal, chairman of the division of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at Virginia Commonwealth University. A report on the trial is published in the April 28 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

A second drug tested in the trial, the diabetes medication pioglitazone (Actos), provided some relief but did not meet the benchmarks set in the study, Sanyal added.

The trial did not test the two treatments head-to-head. Instead, each was tested against a placebo, an inactive substance. Those treatments were chosen for the trial because older studies indicated that insulin resistance was an important aspect of the condition, which is less formally called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, while oxidative stress also plays an important role, Sanyal said. Actos reduces insulin resistance, while vitamin E is an antioxidant.

The study indicates that perhaps 43 percent of people with the condition who do not have diabetes will be helped by daily doses of vitamin E, Sanyal said. While some medications have shown promise in early tests, there is no drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

The build-up of fatty deposits in the liver, which are caused by the condition, often creates only minor health problems. But the disease can progress to cirrhosis, and a life-threatening deterioration of liver function.

The 96-week study included 247 adults with the condition, none of w
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