A study led by McGill found that vitamin E can be used to safely treat a fatty liver disease that is commonly infected with HIV.
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a serious form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is characterized by liver inflammation and cell damage. This is a potentially dangerous condition that may develop into liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Giada Sebastiani, an associate professor in McGill University’s Department of Medicine and a scientist at the McGill University Health Center Research Institute, said: “Vitamin E has been proven to improve fatty liver in the general population. Here, we provide evidence to show that It has a beneficial effect and safety for HIV-infected people with a high prevalence of fatty liver disease."
The research was published in the journal AIDS on February 1, 2020.
Dr. Sebastiani pointed out that NAFLD currently affects up to 48% of Canadians living with HIV and 25% of the total population, while NASH infects about one-third of NAFLD patients. Dr. Sebastiani explained that there are several theories that explain the high incidence of fatty liver among HIV-positive patients: “It may be due to HIV-related inflammation, they must take antiretroviral drugs for life and very frequent metabolic problems, such as diabetes. And hyperlipidemia. Unfortunately, there is no approved treatment for fatty liver in people living with HIV."
In this study, vitamin E was given to 27 HIV and NASH patients taking 2 pills a day at an easily tolerable dose. Dr. Sebastiani said: "We found that vitamin E can improve liver transaminase (the main blood test for liver function) and liver fat measured by noninvasive ultrasound. These improvements are even more pronounced than those reported by people who are not infected with HIV. Although she suspects that vitamin E can reduce inflammation and fat in HIV-positive people, Dr. Sebastiani was surprised by the effect of this effect.
Dr. Sebastiani pointed out that because the study did not have the benefits of a control group, and the research team was small and the follow-up time was short (24 weeks), it was considered a pilot project. She said: "We are interested in conducting larger randomized controlled trials and conducting longer follow-ups."
Dr. Sebastiani came to McGill from Italy seven years ago with the goal of establishing a world-class research program focusing on non-invasive diagnostic tools for fatty liver and liver disease. In the past few years, there has been a surge in cases of fatty liver previously only related to alcoholism, especially among obese Canadians. Dr. Sebastiani predicts that NAFLD will become the main cause of liver transplantation in the next 10 years.
Sebastiani et al. published in the "AIDS" magazine on February 1, 2020, "Vitamin E is an effective treatment for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis in patients with HIV single infection".