Are you suffering from Fatty Liver Disease?
Growth hormone may help!
Insidious...painful...high blood pressure...obesity...diabetes...skyrocketing cholesterol and triglycerides levels...fibrosis (liver scarring), cirrhosis...liver cancer...all of these conditions come to mind for people suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and its more severe form non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
The problem is, that, over time, these diseases trigger the accumulation of fat in the liver that leads to inflammation, which results in the liver damage mentioned earlier.
Worse, the condition has resisted all attempts of a cure. Presently, there are no prescriptions or medications that are approved to treat the disease. Several seemingly promising treatments have been tried and found wanting.
Consequently, treating the affliction relies on losing weight and becoming more active. This is, of course, a good idea for everyone, regardless of their current state of health.
But for people suffering from and living with NAFLD and NASH, lifestyle changes are at best a rear-guard action. At worst, many people are unable to continue these lifestyle modifications.
However, help may have finally arrived!
A recent study published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology has concluded that human growth hormone (HGH) may be a viable treatment option for both obesity and NAFLD.
Takara Stanley, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues evaluated the effects of recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) in young adults with obesity and NAFLD.
Growth hormone, also known as somatropin, is a protein made by the pituitary gland. The hormone binds to receptors on many types of cells and triggers the production of insulin?like growth factor 1 (IGF?1) and other chemical messengers that produce growth and play a major role in metabolism. Low growth hormone levels are linked to obesity, the study authors noted.
Several types of recombinant, or synthetic, somatropin are approved for children with growth failure and adults with growth hormone deficiency. One brand, Serostim, is approved for HIV-positive patients with frail, weakening muscles, but studies have also shown it can slash visceral abdominal fat in people suffering from this severe condition.
This study included 13 women and 11 men with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher (indicating obesity), a hepatic fat fraction of at least 5%—but averaging about 11%—according to MRI scans and a low level of IGF-1. Fifteen were white, none were Black, and about a third identified as Latino or Hispanic. They were randomly assigned to receive daily injections of rhGH (Norditropin brand) or no treatment for 24 weeks.
Hepatic fat fraction, a measurement of the proportion of fat in the liver, decreased by 3.0% among people treated with rhGH, compared with a 0.3% increase in the untreated group, for an impressive reduction of 36%. Five of the nine treated participants, but only one of the nine in the untreated group, saw their liver fat fraction fall below 5%, considered a cure of steatosis.
Levels of the critical liver enzymes ALT, AST, and GGT, which are crucial indicators of liver inflammation and damage, dropped more in the rhGH group. BMI, total body fat, visceral fat, subcutaneous fat, lean body mass, and waist circumference all were lower in the rhGH group but increased in the untreated group.
IGF-1 levels increased considerably in the rhGH group while remaining similar in the untreated group. There were no noteworthy changes in blood lipid and glucose levels or C-reactive protein (an inflammation biomarker).
Treatment was by and large safe and well-tolerated, with no severe adverse side events linked to rhGH. No one experienced significantly elevated blood glucose levels. Four people taking rhGH reported bruising at the injection site.
Adverse side effects included headache and jaw stiffness. No one experienced swelling—a known effect of growth hormone—and no one quit the study because of side effects.
Only the changes in BMI, lean body mass, and IGF-1 were statistically substantial, so the other changes could have been due to chance. But the fact that they largely went in a healthy direction suggests that rhHGH was not merely a placebo.
The treatment may have produced a genuine effect that could be proven in more significant studies. In particular, the magnitude of the change in hepatic fat fraction “may be clinically significant and may warrant investigation in larger studies,” the authors suggested. The 36% relative reduction in this study is within the range seen with several other drugs and treatments being studied for NAFLD and NASH.
To further support their conclusions, the researchers noted that prior animal studies showed a link between growth hormone levels and liver fat. Also, people with low growth hormone levels caused by pituitary problems have an increased frequency of NAFLD and NASH, which improves with growth hormone replacement.
Finally, Egrifta (tesamorelin), a growth hormone-releasing factor analog that triggers the release of growth hormone, is used to reduce visceral fat in people with HIV-related lipodystrophy (a disturbance of the metabolism of fat), and other research has concluded that it reduces liver fat and also slows fibrosis.
One caveat: This study was small, so further research is needed.
“Data from this pilot study suggest that rhGH treatment in young adults with obesity and NAFLD may have benefits to reduce liver fat content, although larger studies are needed to confirm this effect,” the authors concluded.
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