Toronto: A type of fatty liver disease that commonly affects patients with HIV can be safely treated with vitamin E, researchers have found.
Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a severe form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and is characterised by liver inflammation and cell damage.
It is a potentially dangerous condition that can progress to cirrhosis or liver cancer.
"Vitamin E has been shown to improve fatty liver in the general population, here we provide evidence for its beneficial effect and safety in people living with the HIV, who have a higher prevalence of fatty liver disease," said study lead author Giada Sebastiani, Associate Professor in McGill University in Canada.
The researchers noted that NAFLD currently affects up to 48 per cent of Canadians living with HIV and 25 per cent of the general population, while NASH affects about one third of patients with NAFLD.
There are several theories to explain the high prevalence of fatty liver among the HIV-positive patients, they said.
"It is possibly due to HIV-related inflammation, the anti-retroviral drugs that they have to take lifelong, and to the very frequent metabolic problems, such as diabetes and high lipids. Unfortunately, there is no approved therapy for fatty liver in people living with HIV," Sebastiani added.
For the study, published in the journal AIDS, 27 patients with HIV and NASH were given vitamin E in an easily-tolerated dose of two pills per day.
"We found that vitamin E improved both liver transaminases (the main blood tests for liver function) and liver fat measured by a non-invasive ultrasonographic test," Sebastiani said.
"These improvements were even more marked than those reported in the HIV-uninfected population." Although she suspected vitamin E would reduce inflammation and fat in the HIV-positive group, Sebastiani added.