Washington: An omega-3 fatty acid counteracts the effect of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), afflicting 75 percent of the obese, says a new study.
The American Liver Foundation estimates that about 25 percent of the US population and 75 percent of the obese have NAFLD. This early-stage health condition can sometimes progress to more serious, even fatal diseases, including non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH.
NASH is a progressive form of liver disease linked with chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, resulting from excess fat storage in the liver. Chronic inflammation can eventually lead to cirrhosis, a major risk factor for liver cancer, the Journal of Nutrition reports.
The Oregon State University (OSU) research is one of the first to directly compare the effects of two of the omega-3 fatty acids, often cited for their nutritional value DHA and EPA found in cold water fish, on diseased liver.
These polyunsaturated fats play a very vital role in the functioning of our bodies including the brain and retina, according to an OSU statement.
OSU researchers found that EPA had comparatively little effect on preventing the fibrosis, or scarring, associated with NASH. But DHA supplementation reduced the proteins involved in liver fibrosis by more than 65 percent.
"A reduction of that magnitude in the actual scarring and damage to the liver is very important," said Donald Jump, principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU.
"Many clinical trials are being done with omega-3 fatty acids related to liver disease," said Jump.
"Our studies may represent the first to specifically compare the capacity of EPA versus DHA to prevent NASH. It appears that DHA, which can also be converted to EPA in the human body, is one of the most valuable for this purpose."