Raising awareness about healthy livers and vitamin E
With over one-third of American children being classified as overweight or obese, we are becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of the childhood obesity epidemic. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one such consequence in which fat accumulates in the liver, resulting in inflammation and disruptions in liver function, with the potential to result in liver failure. Right now, the primary treatment for this condition involve lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, but an emerging option is that of vitamin E supplementation.
A recent review published in JAMA Pediatrics shines a light on this issue among children. NAFLD is increasingly becoming a concern among pediatricians and is being seen in younger children due to the rise of the obesity epidemic. Given the relationship between lifestyle choices and NAFLD and considering the role of oxidative stress in the pathology of NAFLD, researchers have been investigating the use of vitamin E supplementation on ameliorating this problem. In adults, vitamin E supplementation has been shown to improve outcomes in patients with more advanced liver disease. Data in children, however, have been slightly mixed, yet still hold the potential to show a benefit with further research.
There are two lessons to be learned here. First, that efforts to increase awareness around obesity related liver problems such as NAFLD are sorely needed, and this review goes a long way in furthering this cause. And second, that we need to investigate options to help those with NAFLD, such as vitamin E supplementation, in order to best serve public health.
Nobili V, et al. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a challenge for pediatricians. JAMA Pediatr 2014; epub ahead of print.
Sarkhy A, et al. Does vitamin E improve the outcomes of pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Saudi J Gastroenterol 2014; 20(3): 143-153.
Sanyal AJ, et al. Pioglitazline, vitamin E, or placebo for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. N Engl J Med 2010; 362(18): 1675-1685.