Now, new research suggests that vitamin E, a fat soluble vitamin, could be used as a potential treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, is a fairly common and often symptomless liver disease occurring in two to five percent of Americans who drink little to no alcohol. Its symptoms, however resemble those of liver disease caused by excessive drinking. It is characterized by excess fat in the liver, plus inflammation and other damage. Though those who have the disease may not know their liver is affected, the disease can lead to cirrhosis, a severe liver disease in which the liver is permanently damaged. Liver transplant is the only cure for cirrhosis.
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, nearly 250 adults with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis were given either a placebo, vitamin E supplement, or pioglitazone, a prescription drug used to treat both diabetes and currently used in experimental treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. At the conclusion of the two-year study, participants taking vitamin E had a significantly higher rate of improvement in excess liver fat than the group taking the placebo; those on the anti-diabetic drug did not experience significantly greater changes than the control. Additionally, participants who received the anti-diabetic drug gained more weight than the other groups. Both Vitamin E and the anti-diabetic drug improved overall levels of liver inflammation, but neither reversed pre-existing liver damage (fibrosis).
Participants were given 800 IU of vitamin E daily, which is five times its recommended daily allowance, but still less than the safe recommended upper limit of supplemental vitamin E imposed at 1500 IU daily for adults. And while supplementing with vitamin E may not cause weight gain, the supplements could have a blood thinning effect — it should not be used in high doses without consulting your doctor. Take special care when supplementing if you are on any blood thinning or anti-clotting medications, such as coumadin, warfarin or high-dose fish oil.