We are all aware that low levels of vitamin D can cause weak bones. A recent study indicates that it could be associated with liver disease as well!
Researchers claim that low vitamin D could be one of the reasons behind the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD occurs due to accumulation of triglycerides in the liver cells.
AdvertisementOutpatients of suspected metabolic syndrome with normal liver enzymes, no excessive alcohol intake, negative for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, no cirrhosis or chronic liver disease were subjected to liver ultrasound to estimate the presence and degree of fatty liver disease. 25(OH) vitamin D levels were measured to estimate any deficiency of vitamin D.
The researchers found that patients with NAFLD had low levels of 25(OH) vitamin D. They also found that the lower 25(OH) vitamin D levels, the worse is the degree of fatty liver disease. This association was independent of other possible influencing factors like age, sex, triglycerides, HDL and fasting blood glucose levels.
Vitamin D suppresses fibroblast (cell from which connective tissue develops) proliferation and collagen production, thus acting as an immune-modulator. It also appears to have a beneficial effect in patients with hepatitis C on treatment with interferon.
Vitamin D normally plays a role in the metabolism of free fatty acids. Thus, the researchers suggest that in people with low vitamin D levels, the excess free fatty acids flow in the blood stream. These deposit in the liver, resulting in NAFLD. Vitamin D's anti-inflammatory properties and reduction in insulin resistance could also play an important role.
Further studies are warranted to evaluate whether administration of vitamin D in patients with NAFLD could help to treat it, thus firmly establishing the association between fatty liver disease and vitamin D.
Barchetta I et al Strong association between non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and low 25(OH) vitamin D levels in an adult population with normal serum liver enzymes; BMC Medicine 2011; 9:85.