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Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

At a Glance: A meta-analysis show that higher omega-3 fatty acid intakes improve many aspects of liver health in individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The results of a meta-analysis show that higher omega-3 fatty acid intakes improve many aspects of liver health in individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a growing global health concern.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) involves the excess accumulation of liver fat in the absence of alcohol consumption and is defined by the presence of fat in more than 5% of liver cells. NAFLD is now one of the most common liver diseases worldwide. In Western countries and some regions of China, the prevalence of NAFLD is 1539%. Progression of NAFLD is associated with many factors including insulin resistance, oxidative stress, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. NAFLD is considered to be associated with an excess of omega-6 fatty acids and a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Unchecked, NAFLD can lead to significant liver damage, cirrhosis and death.

In a meta-analysis published in Gastroenterology Research and Practice, researchers in China selected ten randomized controlled studies concerning the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on participants with NAFLD or NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a more serious condition that can develop from NAFLD). The average dose of omega 3 was 2.85 grams per day consumed for an average of 12 months.

The analysis of the trials revealed over three times the odds of improvement in liver fat levels in association with omega-3 intake in comparison to control subjects. It was also linked to greater reductions in the liver enzyme GGT (which is elevated in liver damage), and improvements in both high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and triglyceride levels when compared to control subjects.

Since there is presently no registered drug for the treatment of NAFLD, researchers stated that intake of omega-3 fatty acids may be a new treatment option for NAFLD.

Lu W, Li S, Li J, et al. Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acid in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Meta-Analysis. Gastroenterol Res Pract. 2016;2016:1459790.

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