Background & aims: Excess hepatic free cholesterol contributes to the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, and statins reduce cholesterol synthesis. Aim of this study was to assess whether statin use is associated with histological liver damage related to steatohepatitis.
Methods: The relationship between statin use, genetic risk factors, and liver damage was assessed in a multi-center cohort of 1201 European individuals, who underwent liver biopsy for suspected non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
Results: Statin use was recorded in 107 subjects, and was associated with protection from steatosis, NASH, and fibrosis stage F2-F4, in a dose-dependent manner (adjusted p<0.05 for all). In 100 treated patients matched 1:1 for modality of recruitment, gender, presence of IFG or type 2 diabetes, PNPLA3 I148M risk alleles, TM6SF2 E167K variant, age, and BMI, statin use remained associated with protection from steatosis (OR 0.09, 95% C.I. 0.01-0.32; p=0.004), steatohepatitis (OR 0.25, 95% C.I. 0.13-0.47; p<0.001), and fibrosis stage F2-F4 (OR 0.42, 95% C.I. 0.20-0.8; p=0.017). Results were confirmed in a second analysis, where individuals were matched within recruitment center (p<0.05 for all). The protective effect of statins on steatohepatitis was stronger in subjects not carrying the I148M PNPLA3 risk variant (p=0.02 for interaction), as statins were negatively associated with steatohepatitis in patients negative (p<0.001), but not in those positive for the I148M variant (p=n.s.).
Conclusions: Statin use was associated with protection towards the full spectrum of liver damage in individuals at risk of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. However, the I148M PNPLA3 risk variant limited this beneficial effect.
Keywords: Cholesterol; NASH; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis; PNPLA3; Statin; Steatosis.
Copyright © 2015 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.