Vitamin B12 and folic acid help treat fatty liver

New research suggests that vitamins such as B12 and folic acid can reverse some liver damage.

Fatty liver disease, or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), is an aggressive form of fatty liver disease that can cause severe liver damage and have a huge impact on overall health.
There is currently no effective treatment for NASH, but a recent study found that vitamin B12 and folic acid can help reduce inflammation and scarring in humans and animal models. Further research is needed to better understand why NASH develops so that treatments can help counteract the underlying mechanisms. Liver problems can occur for a variety of reasons, but they are not always caused by alcohol consumption.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a term used to describe a number of conditions caused by the accumulation of fat in the liver. Other than alcohol, NAFLD is caused by other factors and usually results in inflammation and liver damage. In more severe or aggressive cases, NAFLD may be diagnosed as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Currently, there are no drugs to treat non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. But a recent study published in the Journal of Hepatology looked at the mechanisms of NASH and found that a specific protein, syntaxin 17, was unable to do its job of removing dead, unhealthy cells. In addition, the researchers found that vitamin B12 and folic acid increased syntaxin 17 and helped reverse liver fibrosis (thickening or scarring) and inflammation.

Effects of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis

Fat accumulation in the liver as a symptom of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Certain health conditions increase the risk of developing NAFLD, including:

overweight and obesity
Type 2 diabetes
insulin resistance
metabolic syndrome
high blood pressure
high cholesterol
Some people with NAFLD can develop liver damage and inflammation that can lead to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

NASH can cause scarring and permanent damage to the liver, increasing the risk of liver cancer. There are currently no drugs that can effectively treat NASH.
In fact, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease [NAFLD] is a condition that affects approximately 25% of the world’s population. It is mainly associated with obesity. Its most serious stage, nonalcoholic fatty steatohepatitis (NASH), affects approximately 5% of the world’s population. NASH can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, the need for a liver transplant, and liver cancer.

B vitamins reverse liver inflammation and fibrosis in NASH

The authors of the current study investigated the steps involved in the development of NASH using humans, mouse models, and primates. They found that increases in the amino acid homocysteine ​​(Hcy) were associated with liver inflammation and fibrosis. They also found that high levels of homocysteine ​​in the liver caused and worsened NASH. Homocysteine ​​also affected a specific protein, Syntaxin 17, which is essential for removing damaged cells from the body, a process called autophagy. Researchers used mice and cell cultures to study how vitamin B12 and folic acid might help.

They found that vitamin B12 and folic acid helped to restore expression of syntaxin 17 and the process of autophagy. Finally, vitamin B12 and folic acid helped reduce inflammation and fibrosis in NASH.

A detailed experimental paper published in 2022. July. in the Journal of Hepatology, provides a new vision for these diseases. Using non-human models, researchers clearly showed that vitamin B12 and folic acid reduced liver inflammation and liver scarring (fibrosis) in NASH. These agents appear to work by affecting the homocysteine ​​pathway. This is not a well-explored path. Homocysteine ​​appears to be elevated in NASH and its metabolism is decreased in NASH. Notably, vitamin therapy prevents and reverses fat accumulation, inflammation, and fibrosis in two different mouse models of NASH. Preclinical results suggest that vitamin therapy could be a first-line treatment, especially in patients with low serum B12 and folate levels and high serum homocysteine ​​levels.

Areas of future research

The study provided excellent data in an area of ​​research where information is limited. However, since most of the research has been done in mouse models, more research is needed to confirm the findings and determine how best to treat people diagnosed with NASH. Researchers say vitamin B12 and folic acid may be helpful, especially as a preventative or first-line treatment for NASH.

* Presse Santé aims to communicate health information in a language accessible to all. IN NO EVENT SHOULD THE INFORMATION PROVIDED BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR THE ADVICE OF A HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL.

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