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Summary

Background  Currently, although only a few therapies normalize the liver test abnormalities with/without improving the liver histology, no pharmacologic therapy has proved to be effective for the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.

Aim  To investigate the role of insulin sensitizers in the treatment of individuals with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Methods  A total of 74 individuals with NASH (male/female, 44/30; mean age, 47.2 ± 9.0 years) were enrolled. Participants were divided into two distinct groups: group 1 (n = 25) participants were administered a conventional diet and exercise programme while those in group 2 (n = 49) were administered the diet and exercise programme plus insulin sensitizers.

Results  With respect to baseline metabolic, biochemical and histological parameters, no significant differences were observed between the two groups (P > 0.05). Insulin sensitizers significantly improved metabolic parameters (homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance score, P < 0.05), serum aminotransferase levels [aspartate aminotransferase (AST): 45.9 ± 24.2 to 33.3 ± 17.7 IU/L, P < 0.01; alanine aminotransferase (ALT): 78.2 ± 46.3 to 47.3 ± 34.5 IU/L, P < 0.001] and histological features (median non-alcoholic fatty liver disease activity score: 5.0–3.0, P = 0.01), while diet and exercise improved serum aminotransferase levels (AST: 39.3 ± 11.1 to 30.0 ± 8.6 IU/L, P < 0.01; ALT: 66.9 ± 28.9 to 42.0 ± 16.2 IU/L, P < 0.001) at the end of the 48 weeks when compared to baseline. Insulin sensitizers improved the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels (P < 0.01). No serious adverse effects of insulin sensitizers were observed.

Conclusion  Insulin sensitizers can lead to improvement in metabolic, biochemical and histological abnormalities of NASH as a result of improved insulin sensitivity.