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Vitamin E Can Protect Against Liver Disease Associated With Obesity

Apr 24, 2013 05:11 AM EDT

A study team has now found that vitamin E may help against liver disease caused by obesity.

Researchers found the role of vitamin E on liver in a group of obese mice by accident. Danny Manor, an associate professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, said that the team was actually practicing surgical techniques on liver tissue while they were investigating the effect of vitamin E deficiency in the central nervous system of mice.

During the experiment, researchers were surprised that the mice were in the advanced stages of a liver disease called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (or NASH). The disease is a common complication of obesity and is characterized by deposition of fat and inflammation in the liver. NASH is the most severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and over time, damaged tissue can lead to liver failure or liver cancer.

"The implications of our findings could have a direct impact on the lives of the approximately 63 million Americans who are at potential risk for developing obesity-related liver disease in their lifetimes," said Danny Manor, an associate professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

A previous study by National Institute of Health had said that vitamin E helps decrease a type of fatty liver disease in children. The researchers had found that children diagnosed with this disease showed significant improvements when treated with vitamin E. However, the vitamin is also linked to a higher chance of developing prostate cancer. The risk stays even after people stop taking the supplements.

In the present study, researchers engineered a mouse that lacked a protein which is responsible for the regulation of vitamin E in the body. During the course of the study, the mice began showing signs of liver injury such as fat deposition and inflammation. Introducing vitamin E in the diet helped the mice. As Manor noted, "supplementation with vitamin E averted the majority of NASH-related symptoms in these animals, confirming the relationship between vitamin E deficiency and liver disease."

Adults require about 15 mg of vitamin E per day, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. The vitamin is found in vegetable oils like wheat germ, sunflower and safflower oils.

"These findings may have a significant impact on public health," added Manor in a news release, "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."

The study will be presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, held in conjunction with the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting in Boston.

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