A potential new way to fight obesity-related illness has been uncovered, thanks to serendipitous research led by investigators at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
An essential antioxidant, vitamin E had been shown by recent studies to alleviate some symptoms of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in human patients, suggesting that there is a link between adequate vitamin E levels and liver disease.
While studying the effect of vitamin E deficiency on the central nervous system of mice, the research came across those with advanced stages of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.
To test this hypothesis, the team studied a mouse that was engineered to lack a protein that regulates the levels of vitamin E in the body. As expected, they observed increased oxidative stress, fat deposition and other signs of liver injury in the mice. Supplementation with vitamin E averted the majority of NASH-related symptoms in these animals, confirming the relationship between vitamin E deficiency and liver disease.
The precise effects of vitamin E on health have previously been difficult to ascertain, though its antioxidative properties were suggested to offer some protection from a variety of well-known maladies, including heart disease, cancer and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS).
“These findings may have a significant impact on public health as the vast majority of adults in the United States do not consume the amount of vitamin E recommended by the National Institute of Medicine.” says Danny Manor, an associate professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
For adults, the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin E is 15 milligrams a day. Vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, leafy greens and fortified cereals commonly contain vitamin E. “Simple and affordable dietary intervention may benefit people at risk for this debilitating disease,” Manor says.
There is currently no treatment for NASH, making it one of the most common reasons for liver transplantation.
Manor and colleague Varsha Thakur presented the group’s findings at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, held in conjunction with the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting in Boston.
The above story is based on the April 23, 2013 news release by American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB)
NASH is a common complication of obesity characterized by fat accumulation, oxidative stress and inflammation in the liver. It is the most severe form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and is a major cause of tissue scarring known as cirrhosis that leads to liver failure and may progress to liver cancer. There is currently no treatment for NASH, making it one of the most common reasons for liver transplantation.
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