Effects of metformin, pioglitazone, and silymarin treatment on non-alcoholic Fatty liver disease: a randomized controlled pilot study

Hepat Mon. 2012 Aug;12(8):e6099. doi: 10.5812/hepatmon.6099. Epub 2012 Aug 3.


Background: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most common reasons of enzyme increase in liver. In About 10 percent of patients with NAFLD, the disease progresses toward Non Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) and about one third of them may progress toward cirrhosis, liver dysfunction, and even hepatocellular carcinoma.

Objectives: According to high prevalence of NAFLD and the fact that there is no consensus on treatment of this disease, the aim of this study was to assess the effects of metformin, pioglitazone, and silymarin on treatment of NAFLD.

Patients and methods: Sixty six patients with NAFLD who were presented in the Endocrinology and Metabolism clinic of Boo'ali Hospital, Qazvin, Iran, were assigned randomly into three groups (n = 22). First group was treated by pioglitazone 15 mg/d, second group by metformin 500 mg/d, and third group by silymarin 140 mg/d. All patients underwent clinical and biochemical evaluations including weight, fasting blood sugar (FBS), lipid profiles, body mass index (BMI), aspartate aminotransferase (AST ), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and serum insulin levels in pre- and post-intervention after eight-week follow up.

Results: Before the treatment there was no significant difference between three groups with respect to average age, BMI and gender, FBS, lipid profile, AST, ALT, serum insulin level, and Homeostasis Model Assessment (HOMA) index for insulin resistance. After the intervention, a significant reduction was observed in average amount of FBS, lipid profile, ALT, AST, serum insulin level and HOMA index in three groups (P < 0.01). The most reduction in average FBS, TG, serum insulin level, and HOMA index was observed in pioglitazone group, the most reduction in average amount of cholesterol was seen in metformin group, and the most decrease in average amount of AST and ALT occurred in silymarin group.

Conclusions: These results suggest that all drugs are beneficial in improving biochemical indices in patients with NAFLD. Changes in AST and ALT in silymarin group were demonstrated more than that in other groups and the average difference between changes was significant between silymarin and metformin groups.

Keywords: Cardiovascular System; Metformin; Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease; Pioglitazone; Silymarin.