People with a common, obesity-related liver disease that has no known treatment got a surprising benefit from vitamin E pills, researchers reported Wednesday.
Fat buildup can cause the liver to become inflamed and scarred over time and in severe cases, to fail. The disease usually develops in people who are middle-aged and overweight or obese. Up to 5 percent of Americans have the most serious form of it, and as many as 20 percent have fat in their livers but no organ damage.
In the study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, 247 adults with advanced fatty liver disease were randomly assigned to take a high dose of vitamin E (800 international units), the diabetes drug Actos or dummy pills for nearly two years.
The vitamin and drug were tested because earlier research suggested liver cell deterioration and insulin resistance might be involved in the development of the disease.
Biopsies before and after treatment showed that liver function improved in 43 percent of those in the vitamin E group compared with 19 percent in the placebo group.
The National Institutes of Health was the study's main sponsor.