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Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

Treatment in Phytochemicals Perspective

By Kyle J. Norton

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a chronic condition caused by fat


accumulated in the liver over time, in the absence of excessive alcohol use. The
disease can be classified into the types of non-inflammatory fatty liver (NAFl)
and inflammatory nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)(1).

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the major causes of


cirrhosis and liver cancer.

According to world statistics, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is


normally known as a disease of the Western world(2). However, due to the
economic prosperity of Southeast Asian(3), the disease also was found in a
large number of population in the cities, causing concerns of many scientists in
the region(4)(6).

According to the joint assessment of the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver


disease and risk factors for advanced fibrosis and mortality in the US, led by
the Stanford University School of Medicine, "The prevalence of NAFLD in the
United States (U.S.) has risen from 18% in 1988–1991 to 31% in 2011–2012.
Estimates of NAFLD prevalence for adults in Western countries is 20–30%,
with much higher prevalence in adults with obesity (80–90%), diabetes (30–
50%), and hyperlipidemia (90%)"(5).

Among the more affluent regions of China, the prevalence rate of non-alcoholic
fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is approximately 15%(6). The number may
decrease substantially if the poor rural populations where obesity is non-
existence are also taking into account(7).

The exact causes of NAFLD aren't well understood. Some researchers


suggested that certain risk factors such as long-term use of certain
medications(8), genetic preposition(8), insulin resistance(8), high cholesterol(8)
and triglycerides(8) in the blood, polycystic ovary syndrome(8), metabolic
syndrome(8), obesity(8), and type 2 diabetes(8) are associated with the onset of
the disease.
Recent studies also found that people with obstructive sleep apnea(11),
underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism(10) and underactive pituitary gland
(hypopituitarism) (9) also at an increased risk of the NALFD.

Some researchers suggested that unhealthy diet such as high-fat diet may also
have a strong implication on NAFLD(12)(13).

Dr. Jensen VS, the lead scientist in the study high-fat diet-induced non-
alcoholic fatty liver disease, wrote, "In humans and animal models, excessive
intake of dietary fat, fructose, and cholesterol has been linked to the
development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)"(13).

And, " Only HFr-fed rats developed dyslipidemia as characterized by higher


levels of plasma triglycerides compared to all other groups (p < 0.0001).
Hepatic dysfunction and inflammation was confirmed in HFD-fed rats by
elevated levels of hepatic MCP-1 (p < 0.0001), TNF-alpha (p < 0.001) and
plasma β-hydroxybutyrate (p < 0.0001), and in NASH-fed rats by elevated
levels of hepatic MCP-1 (p < 0.01), increased hepatic macrophage infiltration
(p < 0.001), and higher plasma levels of alanine aminotransferase (p < 0.0001)
aspartate aminotransferase (p < 0.05), haptoglobin (p < 0.001) and TIMP-1 (p <
0.01) compared to Control"(13).

According to the statistics, in the US, over 100 million people have non-
alcoholic fatty liver disease and the condition is more double over the past 20
years(14). The disease also is the most prevalent liver disease in children(14).

The prevalence rate of NAFLD is varied among different ethnic groups in the
US. Dr. Rich NE, the lead scientist in the investigation of the ethnicity and
NAFLD, wrote, "NAFLD prevalence was highest in Hispanics, intermediate in
Whites, and lowest in Blacks, although differences between groups were
smaller in high-risk cohorts (range 47.6%-55.5%) than population-based
cohorts (range, 13.0%-22.9%)(15)".

And, "Among patients with NAFLD, the risk of NASH was higher in Hispanics
(relative risk, 1.09; 95% CI, 0.98-1.21) and lower in Blacks (relative risk, 0.72;
95% CI, 0.60-0.87) than Whites"(15).

The progression of NAFLD and NASH led to cirrhosis, the late stage of liver
scarring are well defined, as the liver tries to heal itself by halting
inflammation(16), leading to symptoms of ascites(16)(18), swell esophageal
varices(16)(19), hepatic encephalopathy(16)(17) and complications of liver
cancer(16)(17) and liver failure(16)(17).

Most people at the early stage NAFLD are asymptomatic, however, as the
disease progression into the later stage, most patients experience symptoms of
right upper abdominal discomfort(20), fatigue(20), and/or malaise(20), and
jaundice(20) with yellowing of the skin and eyes(20).

Most patients with NAFLD have elevated levels of liver enzymes gamma-
glutamyl transferase (GGT)(21) and/or Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST)(21)
to platelet ratio index (APRI) score(21), and/or Alanine Aminotransferase
(ALT) (21) which are the markers used to predict the severity of liver disease
including the fatty liver. A blood test is required if you suspected to have
developing nonfatty liver disease.

Conventionally, as of today, there is no effective treatment of NAFLD(22)(23).


Weight loss for overweight and obese patients(22) has been recommended
through our the industry accompanied by the change of lifestyles(22) such as
moderate exercise and reduced intake of alcohol, depending on individuals.

Patients who are hepatitis virus B and C carriers are also recommended to be
vaccinated(22).

Given the nature of the nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, the search for effective
treatment for NAFLD from the natural sources used over thousands of years in
traditional medicine for the treatment of liver disease has been intensified(23).
Many secondary metabolites, whole foods, and herbal medicine have been
found to be effective in vivo, vitro and small human trials(24). However, most
of them were stopped due to a simple reason. Who will spend billions to prove
the thing which has no commercial values? Secondary metabolites, whole
foods, and herbal medicine cannot be patented.

A. Phytochemicals
Phytochemicals, the natural chemical constituent, protect the plants against
diseases and form their outer's color.
Phytochemicals may be the next potential sources of a new medicine for
treatment of diseases with little or no side effects(32), including
* Secondary metabolites
Secondary metabolites produced by plants have been used as medicines,
flavorings, pigments, and recreational drugs over thousands of year in human
history(24).
* Bioactive compounds isolated from plant include vegetables, fruits, and nut.

1. Triterpenoid
Triterpenoid is a various unsaturated hydrocarbon, found in essential oils and
oleoresins of plants, including Ilex, hainanensis Merr(25).

In the study to test the effect of Triterpenoid-rich fraction (TP) from Ilex
hainanensis Merr. on NAFLD with Male Sprague-Dawley (SD) fed with a
normal diet (control) or high fat diet (NAFLD model), after 4 weeks, then
orally administrated TF (250 mg/kg) for another two weeks(26), researchers
showed that TP not only improves the symptoms of the subjects but also
decreases the levels of triglyceride(26), total cholesterol(26), low-density
lipoprotein cholesterol(26), abnormality of lipid accumulation(26), levels of
inflammation(26) and infection(26) and apoptosis response(26) in the liver.

Of these results, TF is effective in protecting the liver against NAFLD by


regulating lipids metabolism(26) and alleviating insulin resistance(26),
inflammation(26) and oxidative stress(26).

2. Curcumin
Turmeric is a perennial plant in the genus Curcuma, belonging to the family
Zingiberaceae, native to tropical South Asia(27)., used in traditional medicine
as anti-oxidant, hypoglycemic, colorant, antiseptic, wound healing agent, and to
treat flatulence, bloating, and appetite loss, ulcers, eczema, inflammations,
etc(27)(28). Curcumin is one of the natural phenols in the plant(28).

Curcumin, as an antihyperlipidemic agent, has been found to lower the “bad


cholesterol” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and increase high-density
lipoprotein (HDL)(29), thus reducing the risk of fat accumulated in the tissues
in the liver(29).

In the support of the above, the water-soluble curcumin derivative was tested
for its efficacy against steatohepatitis which is an inflammation of the liver(30)
(31) with concurrent fat accumulation in the liver(30)(31), researchers found
that the derivative not only significantly alleviates fibrosis(30)(31) but also
decreases the grade of liver steatosis(30)(31).
3. Piperine
Piperine is a phytochemical alkaloid in the class of organosulfur compound,
found abundantly in white and black pepper, long pepper, etc.

Administration of piperine appeared to reverse hepatic steatosis (33) and


insulin resistance(33) in mice fed with high fat, probably inactivation of
adiponectin-AMPK signaling(33) associated with stimulated fatty acid
oxidation and enhance insulin sensitivity.

In other words, piperine not only inhibited hepatic steatosis and insulin
resistance by reducing the expressions of lipogenic target genes(33) associated
with insulin resistance (33) but also increased the expression of carnitine
palmitoyltransferase 1 (CPT1) gene(33) involved in fatty acid oxidation.

4. Resveratrol
Resveratrol, a phytochemical in the class of Stilbenoids found abundantly in
many vegetables and fruits as well as herbs and herbal formulas(34) including
found abundantly in skins and seed of grape wine, nuts, peanuts, etc.

According to studies, the formulas of berberine and resveratrol not only


improved a biochemical and histological change in nonalcoholic fatty liver
disease(35)(36), but also inhibited lipid accumulation(36) by up-regulating
low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) expression(36), alleviating lipid
peroxidation(36), and reducing the production of inflammatory cytokines(36).

5. Carotenoids
Carotenoids are class of phytochemicals that give yellow, orange, or red fat-
soluble pigments, including lycopene and carotene, found in ripe tomatoes and
autumn leaves(38).

According to studies, in the examination of a total of 2687 in middle-aged and


elderly Chinese adults. who completed both NAFLD tests were classified into
stable, improved and progressed groups, serum carotenoids(37) are inversely
associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)(37) by reducing
serum RBP4 and HOMA-IR(37), associated with insulin resistance(37),
triglycerides(37), and body max index (BMI)(37).

More precisely, higher levels of α-carotene, β-carotene, lutein + zeaxanthin(39),


and total carotenoids(39) have a strong impact on a significant decrease in the
severity of NAFLD(39).
6. Quercetin
Quercetin is a type of flavonoid antioxidant found in leafy greens, tomatoes,
berries, and broccoli(40). Recent studies have shown that the beneficial effects
of quercetin include the activation of mitochondrial biogenesis(41).

In Male Sprague-Dawley rats fed high-fat diet (HFD) induced alcoholic fatty
liver disease (NAFLD), quercetin intake decreased hepatic TG content by 39%,
(42) with a 1.5-fold increase in very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL)(42)
which transport hepatic lipids to peripheral tissue acquired apoC-II and apoE
from high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and exhibited the function of a protein
involved in stress response(42) compared with the HFD group.

Injection of quercetin also is found to increase the protein complex expression


of lipid transfer with a function to promote the very low-density lipoproteins
(VLDL)(42) secreted by the liver.

In other words, these findings suggested that quercetin inhibits the expression
NAFLD by increasing hepatic VLDL assembly and autophagy in hepatic lipid
metabolism(42).

Additonally, quercetin exhibited hepatoprotective activity in 30-day HFD-


induced NAFLD rats by regulating fatty acid related metabolites(43) (adrenic
acid, etc.) including the inflammation-related metabolites (arachidonic acid,
etc.), oxidative stress-related metabolites(43) (2-hydroxybutyric acid) and other
differential metabolites(43) (citric acid, etc.).

8. Anthocyanin
Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments of colored berries, fruits, and
vegetables (44). They can protect hepatocytes against injury caused by high
glucose-induced oxidative damage(45), by improving the antioxidant status and
inhibiting the mitochondria pathways of apoptosis(45).

In male C57BL/6 J mice fed with a high fat high cholesterol (HFC) diet with or
without 200 mg/kg B.W Cy-3-G for 8 weeks, injection of cyanidin-3-O-β-
glucoside (Cy-3-G) regulated the activation of brown adipose tissue (BAT)(46)
and the expression of adipokines in BAT disrupted by HFC diet associated with
the induction of fatty liver(46).

In other words, Cy-3-G exerted the liver protective effect of on hepatic lipid
accumulation(46) via regulating the secretion of adipokines from BAT(46).
9. Epigallocatechin gallate
Epigallocatechin gallate is the ester of epigallocatechin and gallic acid,
belonging to the chemical class of flavan-3-ols (catechins) found most
abundant in green tea (Camellia sinensis L.), accounting for about 50% of its
total polyphenols(47).

In the examination of gene expression profiles with non-alcoholic fatty liver


disease (NAFLD) and associated advanced liver diseases(48), application of
Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) inhibited the fibrosis-related genes
(48)Col1a1, Col1a2, Col3a1, and Col6a3) that have a strong impact on the
onset of NAFLD found in an independent mouse dataset (48).

In other words, EGCG protects the liver against genes related to liver
fibrosis(48).

Furthermore, EGCG also exhibits multi-pronged preventive and therapeutic


activities(49), including promoted lipid(49) and glucose metabolism(49), anti-
lipid peroxidation(49) and anti-inflammation activities(49), anti-fibrosis(49),
and anti-NAFLD related tumor(49), thus contributing to the mitigation of
NAFLD occurrence and progression(49).

10. Astaxanthin
Astaxanthin is a phytochemical in the class of Xanthophylls, belonging to the
group of Carotenoids (tetraterpenoids), found abundantly in yeast, krill, shrimp,
salmon, lobsters, and green microalga(50). Astaxanthin showed to exhibit
antifibrotic effects in the liver(51).

On the steatotic liver model by giving mice a methionine and choline-deficient


high fat (MCDHF) diet, pretreatment of astaxanthin reduced levels of lipid
peroxidation(52) and reduced number of liver cells apoptosis(52) by inhibiting
the expression of inflammatory cytokines(2) and gene(52) involved oxidative
stress in the liver(32)

11. Fucoxanthin
Fucoxanthin is one of the most abundant marine carotenoids, accounting for
more than 10% of the estimated total carotenoids in nature(53).
Fucoxanthin protected the liver induced by obesity(54) by improving insulin
resistance(54) and decreasing blood glucose levels (54) through the regulation
of cytokine secretions(54).

On body weight, body fat, liver lipids, and blood biochemistry in obese, non-
diabetic female volunteers with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and
normal liver fat (NLF) content, Xanthigen (brown marine algae fucoxanthin +
pomegranate seed oil (PSO)) promoted weight loss(55), reduced body(55) and
liver fat content)(55), and improved liver function tests in obese non-diabetic
women(55).

Xanthigen may be considered a promising food supplement in the management


of obesity(55).

12. Glucoraphanin (4-methyl sulfinyl butyl glucosinolate)


Glucoraphanin (4-methyl sulfinyl butyl glucosinolate), the major glucosinolate
is the precursor of sulforaphane found abundantly in broccoli Brussels sprouts
and cabbages(56).

Obesity-induced insulin resistance and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease


(NAFLD), glucoraphanin, a precursor of the Nrf2 activator sulforaphane,
ameliorated obesity by enhancing energy expenditure(57) and browning of
white adipose tissue(57), and attenuated obesity-related inflammation(57) and
insulin resistance(57) and reduced metabolic endotoxemia(57).

Where nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a key regulator of


antioxidant signaling that serves as a primary cellular defense against the
cytotoxic effects.

In chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, and NAFLD in high-fat diet


(HFD)-fed mice, Glucoraphanin supplementation attenuated weight gain(58),
decreased hepatic steatosis(58), and improved glucose tolerance(58) and insulin
sensitivity(58).

Furthermore, glucoraphanin attenuated hepatic lipogenic gene expression(58),


lipid peroxidation(58), classically activated M1-like macrophage
accumulation(58), and inflammatory signaling pathways(58).

In other words, by promoting fat browning, limiting metabolic endotoxemia-


related chronic inflammation, and modulating redox stress, glucoraphanin may
have a therapeutic effect for the treatment of obesity(58), insulin resistance(58),
and NAFLD(58).

13. Sinigrin
Sinigrin is a major component of commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables,
such as horseradish and wasabi(59).

Sinigrin found in glucosinolates, a class of antioxidants has been found to


reverse of fatty liver (60) probably through indirect interaction with
mitochondrial metabolism(60) which encompasses a range of conditions caused
by lipid deposition within liver cells.

In other words, by targeting the mitochondrial metabolism, sinigrin modulates


antioxidant molecules for a potential treatment for hepatic steatosis(60).

Summary
Taken altogether, phytochemicals, herbal medicines, healthy foods found in the
research paper may be considered remedies for the prevention and treatment of
non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, pending to large sample size and
multicenter human study.

Natural Medicine for Fatty Liver And Obesity Reversal - The


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Author Biography
Kyle J. Norton (Scholar, Master of Nutrition, All right reserved)
Health article writer and researcher; Over 10.000 articles and research papers
have been written and published online, including worldwide health, ezine
articles, article base, health blogs, self-growth, best before it's news, the karate
GB daily, etc.,.
Named TOP 50 MEDICAL ESSAYS FOR ARTISTS & AUTHORS TO READ
by Disilgold.com Named 50 of the best health Tweeters Canada - Huffington
Post
Nominated for shorty award over last 4 years
Some articles have been used as references in medical research, such as
international journal Pharma and Bioscience, ISSN 0975-6299.

Sources
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(40) QUERCETIN by WebMD
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in HepG2 Cells by Nabin Rayamajhi, Seul-Ki Kim, 1 Hiroe Go, 3 Yeonsoo Joe,
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Adipose Tissue Browning and Reduction of Metabolic Endotoxemia in Mice by
Nagata N1, Xu L1, Kohno S2, Ushida Y3, Aoki Y3, Umeda R3, Fuke N3,
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