Your liver offer several essential functions -- it serves as a metabolic hotspot in your body, stores essential vitamins and minerals for future use, clears toxins from your body and helps you process drugs. Fatty liver disease, the development of fat deposits in your liver tissue, can develop due to alcohol abuse, while non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, is not linked to excessive alcohol consumption. While vitamins can't necessarily treat a fatty liver, they might help limit liver damage or reduce your risk or fatty liver disease.
The inflammation associated with fatty liver disease causes the liver tissues to become abnormally stiff and fibrous. As this progresses, the liver can be permanently damaged and unable to do its job, which is to produce substances for use in food digestion, manage red blood cell reprocessing, store vitamins, build proteins and clear toxins such as alcohol and bacteria out of your system. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, meaning it helps to reduce inflammation. In a study reported in the May 6, 2010, issue of the "New England Journal of Medicine," 84 patients who were given 800 international units of vitamin E daily had improved liver enzyme numbers and inflammation, though no improvement was found in the fibrosis of the liver.
Vitamin C is another antioxidant. A 2005 study reported in the "Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology" found that taking a combination of vitamins C and E was a safe treatment for fatty liver disease. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, or NIDDK, considers vitamins E and C as experimental treatments for NASH, and the agency requires clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of vitamins and other supplements in treating fatty liver disease.
Niacin might also help fight fatty liver disease. It helps lower high triglyceride levels in your blood, explains the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Because high triglycerides increase your risk of fatty liver disease, using niacin to keep your triglycerides under control might benefit your liver. However, the high doses of niacin needed to lower blood triglycerides can lead to side effects, including flushing, and contaminated niacin supplements derived from morning glory can even harm your liver. Make sure your to talk to your doctor if you're interested in supplemental niacin.
Among the other supplements being studied by the NIDDK are selenium and betaine. In June 2006, a report in the Journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians included betaine, along with vitamins E and C, among treatment options for those with NAFLD. While admitting that these supplements, like many other treatments, decrease liver enzymes and reduce the amount of fibrosis or inflammation in the liver, the report concluded that no treatment significantly lessened the incidence of fatty liver disease.
Fatty liver disease can generally be managed by healthy eating habits that keep your weight down, and your triglycerides and blood sugar under control. NAFDL only rarely progresses to become a serious medical issue, but if you have this condition or suspect you may have it, consult your physician before taking more than the recommended daily dosages for vitamins C and E or other supplements.
- New England Journal of Medicine: Pioglitazone, Vitamin E, or Placebo for Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis
- Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology: Management of Fatty Liver Disease with Vitamin E and C Compared to Ursodeoxycholic Acid Treatment
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- University of Massachusetts Medical School: About Niacin