A new study has found that shedding extra pounds can significantly help patients reverse fatty liver disease known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
The research team from Saint Louis University Liver Centre has suggested that weight loss of at least 9 percent can help improve condition of patients with fatty liver disease.
"It's a helpful study because we can now give patients a benchmark, a line they need to cross to see improvement," said Dr Brent Neuschwander-Tetri, a hepatologist at Saint Louis University Liver Centre.
During the study, the patients looked at 50 patients with NASH, which is a type of liver disease characterized by excessive fat, causing inflammation and damage in the liver.
They sought to determine if diet drug orlistat, which limits fat absorption, along with calorie restriction would lead to weight loss and improve liver disease in overweight patients with NASH, which was determined by a liver biopsy.
All the participants consumed a 1,400-calorie diet and vitamin E, and half also received orlistat for 36 weeks, at which time liver biopsies were repeated.
They found while orlistat itself was not linked directly to improved liver health, weight loss was, and, further, researchers were able to pin-point the percentage of weight loss needed to improve liver damage.
Patients who lost 5 percent or more of body weight over nine months showed improvement in insulin resistance and steatosis (fat accumulation in the liver), and those who lost at least 9 percent showed reversal of their liver damage.
"The bottom line is that weight loss can help improve fatty liver disease," said Neuschwander-Tetri.
"Now we know how much weight loss is needed for improvement, and we can give patients specific goals as they work to improve their health," he added.
The study is published in the January edition of Hepatology.