Is weight reduction an effective therapy for nonalcoholic fatty liver? A systematic review

Am J Med. 2003 Nov;115(7):554-9. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(03)00449-2.


Purpose: To assess the evidence supporting the efficacy of weight reduction for patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver.

Methods: Potentially relevant studies were identified by a computerized search of databases and a manual search of abstracts from scientific meetings. Studies were included if they reported histology, serum aminotransferase levels, or radiological imaging of the liver in obese adult patients who had undergone weight reduction. Weight reduction regimens included diet, exercise, antiobesity medications, gastric bypass, gastroplasty, or any combination of these interventions. Studies involving jejunoileal or small bowel bypass surgery were excluded.

Results: We identified 517 potentially relevant studies, of which 15 met the inclusion criteria: one randomized controlled trial (in abstract form), two nonrandomized controlled trials, nine case series, one retrospective review, and two case reports. Three studies included more than 50 patients, whereas nine studies had 25 or fewer patients. Twelve studies used behavioral, dietary, or pharmacologic therapy for weight reduction, and three studies used surgical interventions. Although all 15 studies demonstrated overall improvement in the measurements of liver outcome after weight reduction, more than half did not report histologic results.

Conclusion: Despite general acceptance that weight reduction is an effective therapy for nonalcoholic fatty liver, this systematic review found little data to support or refute this recommendation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Fatty Liver / therapy*
  • Gastric Bypass
  • Humans
  • Weight Loss*