Noninvasive Markers of Improvement of Liver Steatosis Achieved by Weight Reduction in Patients with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

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Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is strongly associated with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, which are linked to obesity. The aim of the study was to assess if weight reduction through 12 months of lifestyle intervention and exercise would lead to improvement of steatosis.

Methods. In a prospective observational study 86 overweight subjects (51 men, 35 women) with steatosis were recruited, after excluding other etiologies. Patients were assigned a caloric goal and a daily fat goal. Physical activity focused on moderate-intensity activities. Blood samples (biochemistry, HOMA-IR, cytokine levels, steatotest) were collected at entry and months 6 and 12. All subjects underwent abdominal CT scan before commencement and after 12 months to assess visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue (VAT/SAT) area.

Results. After 12 months baseline descriptive characteristics (weight, BMI, waist circumference) decreased significantly. Biochemical parameters that decreased significantly were: GGT (40.0 ± 18.0 vs 31.1 ± 13; p = 0.01), ALT (58.5 ± 23.5 vs 32,7 ± 14.8; p = 0.001), cholesterol (236.4 ± 54.8 vs 204.8 ± 91; p = 0.05), LDL (160.1 ± 47.4 vs 125.3 ± 40; p = 0.05) and HOMA-R (4.86 ± 0.63 vs 3 ± 0.41; p = 0.018). Steatotest improved significantly (0.68 ± 0.16 vs 0.38 ± 0.14; p = 0.02). Modification of adipocytokines was significant for leptin (p = 0.018) and adiponectin (p = 0.003). Factors associated with regression of steatosis were weight, BMI, ALT, waist circumference, GGT, HOMA, leptin, VAT and steatotest. Multivariate logistic regression showed the following factors related to improved steatosis: BMI < 25 kg/m2, ALT < 42 U/L, leptin < 10.5 ng/ml and adiponectin > 8.4 μg/ml.

Conclusions. Overweight persons who achieve significant reductions in body weight through 12 months of physical activity and low caloric diet can decrease liver fat, VAT and SAT. Even in those with minimal weight loss ALT levels, steatosis, adipokines and cardiovascular risk factors improved.

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