Objective: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an increasingly recognized health problem. Various treatment strategies such as thiazolidinediones, metformin, lipid-lowering agents and antioxidants have been evaluated. So far, no single intervention has convincingly improved liver histology. Experience of using silymarin alone or in combination with other agents in patients with NAFLD is limited in the medical literature. The present study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of silymarin plus vitamin E in the treatment of NAFLD.
Patients and methods: A sample of 36 patients was enrolled. The diagnosis of NAFLD was confirmed by percutaneous liver biopsy. All patients were randomized to one of the following intervention groups: group I: treated with 2 tablets per day of silymarin plus vitamin E (Eurosil 85®, MEDAS SL) and a lifestyle modification program consisting of hypocaloric diet (1520 kcal, 52% of carbohydrates, 25% of lipids and 23% of proteins) and exercise for 3 months and group II (only with the hypocaloric diet). Anthropometric variables as waist circumference, weight, body mass index (BMI) were measured. Biochemical parameters: Glucose, triglycerides, AST, ALT, GGt levels and insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) were determined under fasting conditions. Non-invasive NAFLD-index were applied before and after the treatments: Fatty liver index (FLI), liver accumulation product (LAP) and NAFLD-Fibrosis score (FS).
Results: The mean age was 47.4 ± 11.2 years old (range 18-67); 22 men and 14 women. In group I, 11 patients (61%) have a NAS-score > 5 and 10 (55.5%) in the group II (NS). Anthropometric parameters decreased after treatment in both groups. Patients in both groups showed a decrease in GGt levels after treatment (group I: 68 IU/L vs. 46.2 ± 27 IU/L; p < 0.05 and group II 80.5 ± 46 IU/L vs. 50.3 ± 27 IU/L; p < 0.05). Only in group II we observed a significant decrease in AST and ALT levels. In both groups, we observed a decrease in: FLI index (group I: 86.2 ± 19 vs. 76.9 + 20; p < 0.05 and in group II: 85.2 ± 18 vs. 77.5 ± 23; p < 0.05), and NAFLD-FS index (group I: -1.6 ± 1.8 vs. -2.1 ± 1.5; p < 0.05 and in group II -1 ± 1.9 vs. -1.5 ± 2.1; p < 0.05). Patients in group I who did not get a 5% loss of weight also displayed decreased GGt levels, and in the FLI and NAFLD-FS indexes; whereas patients in group II without decrease of 5% by weight showed no improvement in any of the analyzed parameters.
Conclusions: Treatment with silymarin plus vitamin E and a hypocaloric diet ameliorate function hepatic test, and non-invasive NAFLD index. Silymarin can be an alternative valid therapeutic option particularly when other drugs are not indicated or have failed or as a complementary treatment associated with other therapeutic programs.