Vitamin E in chronic liver diseases and liver fibrosis

Vitam Horm. 2007;76:551-73. doi: 10.1016/S0083-6729(07)76021-1.


Liver fibrosis may be considered as a dynamic and integrated cellular response to chronic liver injury. The activation of hepatic stellate cells and the consequent deposition of large amounts of extracellular matrix play a major role in the fibrogenic process, but it has been shown that other cellular components of the liver are also involved. Although the pathogenesis of liver damage usually depends on the underlying disease, oxidative damage of biologically relevant molecules might represent a common link between different forms of chronic liver injury and hepatic fibrosis. In fact, oxidative stress-related molecules may act as mediators able to modulate all the events involved in the progression of liver fibrosis. In addition, chronic liver diseases are often associated with decreased antioxidant defenses. Although vitamin E levels have been shown to be decreased in chronic liver diseases of different etiology, the role of vitamin E supplementation in these clinical conditions is still controversial. In fact, the increased serum levels of alpha-tocopherol following vitamin E supplementation not always result in a protective effect on liver damage. In addition, clinical trials have usually been performed in small cohorts of patients, thus making definitive conclusions impossible. At present, treatment with vitamin E or other antioxidant compounds could be proposed for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the most frequent hepatic lesion in western countries which can progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and cirrhosis due to the production of large amounts of oxidative stress products. However, although some studies have shown encouraging results, multicentric and long-term clinical trials are needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / metabolism*
  • Liver Diseases / metabolism*
  • Vitamin E / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamin E