Prolonged n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation ameliorates hepatic steatosis in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a pilot study


Dr M. Capanni, Nutrition Center and Gastroenterology Unit, Department of Clinical Pathophysiology, University of Florence, Viale Pieraccini, 6, 50134, Florence, Italy.


Background  Recent studies suggest a role of n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α ligands in improving non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in rodents. However, data in humans are still lacking.

Aim  To evaluate the efficacy of prolonged PUFA supplementation in patients with NAFLD.

Methods  Fifty-six patients with NAFLD were enrolled. Among the overall eligible patients, 42 assumed n-3 PUFA 1-g capsule daily for 12 months, whereas 14 refused the treatment and were analysed as controls. All patients underwent haematochemical and ultrasound follow-up.

Results  Polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation significantly decreased serum aspartate transaminase (P = 0.003), alanine transaminase (P = 0.002), γ-glutamyl transpeptidase (P = 0.03), triglycerides (P = 0.02) and fasting glucose (P = 0.02) in comparison with controls. Circulating arachidonate and n-6/n-3 fatty acid ratio was reduced (P = 0.0002, and P = 0.0001 respectively) in treated patients. Moreover, ultrasonography demonstrated improvement of liver echotexture after PUFA (P = 0.0001), and increase of Doppler perfusion index (P = 0.001), whereas no significant changes occurred in controls.

Conclusions  Supplementation with n-3 PUFA improves biochemical, ultrasonographic and haemodynamic features of liver steatosis. Our study supports the efficacy of n-3 PUFA as a new therapeutic approach in the treatment of NAFLD.