(NaturalNews) Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a common, "silent" liver disease. Although it occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol, it causes damage that resembles alcoholic liver disease, including inflammation. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the condition is marked by fat in the liver and is associated with the growing number of overweight Americans. In all, about 2 to 5 percent of people in the US have NASH. And while many feel fine and aren't aware they have a liver problem, they actually have a disease that can eventually cause cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death.
There's been no effective treatment for NASH -- until now. Results from a new multi-center study organized by the Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Clinical Research Network of NIDDK show vitamin E is a successful treatment for the disease. The findings of this largest ever placebo-controlled randomized trial of NASH therapies were just published in the April 28 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"There is an increasing prevalence of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in this country, something that is directly related to the obesity epidemic," Dr. Joel Lavine, faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and chief of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at New York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, said in a statement to the press. "The good news is that this study showed that cheap and readily available vitamin E can help many of those with the condition."
Dr. Lavine, who was a leader of the research team, pointed out that the drug pioglitazone was also studied alongside daily doses of 800 IU of vitamin E. Although the medication showed some benefits, they were minimal compared to the dramatic effectiveness of vitamin E.
For the Pioglitazone or Vitamin E for NASH Study (PIVENS), the researchers randomly assigned 247 non-diabetic adults with biopsy-confirmed NASH to three groups receiving either vitamin E, pioglitazone (a drug that improves the sensitivity of cells to insulin) or a placebo. After 96 weeks of treatment, liver enzyme tests, which are commonly used to measure liver injury, improved in those who received either pioglitazone or vitamin E.
Unlike vitamin E, however, pioglitazone treatment had an unwelcome side effect -- it caused an average weight gain of 10 pounds over the duration of this study. What's more, although pioglitazone improved many features of NASH, it fell short of statistical significance. However, except for the amount of scar tissue in the liver, vitamin E improved all features of NASH and clearly emerged as effective, natural therapy for this potentially fatal liver disease.