Background: Glutathione plays crucial roles in the detoxification and antioxidant systems of cells and has been used to treat acute poisoning and chronic liver diseases by intravenous injection. This is a first study examining the therapeutic effects of oral administration of glutathione in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Methods: The study was an open label, single arm, multicenter, pilot trial. Thirty-four NAFLD patients diagnosed using ultrasonography were prospectively evaluated. All patients first underwent intervention to improve their lifestyle habits (diet and exercise) for 3 months, followed by treatment with glutathione (300 mg/day) for 4 months. We evaluated their clinical parameters before and after glutathione treatment. We also quantified liver fat and fibrosis using vibration-controlled transient elastography. The primary outcome of the study was the change in alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels.
Results: Twenty-nine patients finished the protocol. ALT levels significantly decreased following treatment with glutathione for 4 months. In addition, triglycerides, non-esterified fatty acids, and ferritin levels also decreased with glutathione treatment. Following dichotomization of ALT responders based on a median 12.9% decrease from baseline, we found that ALT responders were younger in age and did not have severe diabetes compared with ALT non-responders. The controlled attenuation parameter also decreased in ALT responders.
Conclusions: This pilot study demonstrates the potential therapeutic effects of oral administration of glutathione in practical dose for patients with NAFLD. Large-scale clinical trials are needed to verify its efficacy.
Trial registration: UMIN000011118 (date of registration: July 4, 2013).
Keywords: Controlled attenuation parameter; Glutathione; Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.