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The vitamin not to be missed to protect the liver, prevent and reverse hepatic steatosis and inflammation

October 10, 2023
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The vitamin not to be missed to protect the liver, prevent and reverse hepatic steatosis and inflammation

A very recent scientific study has observed that some nutritional deficiencies can increase the risk of developing fatty liver. On the contrary, a healthy, balanced diet that can provide vitamin B3, or niacin, has been shown to prevent, counteract and even reverse fatty liver conditions and liver inflammation. Let us therefore delve deeper into the results of this study published in the journal Nutrients by Chinese scientists (Pan et al, Nutrients, Sep 2023).

Fatty liver, what it is and risks

Non-alcoholic fatty liver is a condition in which excessive quantities of fat accumulate in the liver. It is estimated that fatty liver, or hepatic steatosis, can affect up to 40% of the population, with data continuing to grow. As mentioned in several articles, fatty liver is not a disease and can hardly show signs of itself. However, it is possible, in the long term, if not appropriately treated and in the presence of other conditions such as drinking excessive alcohol, having a diagnosis of diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, that liver inflammation may also develop and that fatty liver may evolve in other forms such as steatohepatitis, fibrosis and, rarely, even cirrhosis and cellular degeneration. Hence the importance of treating fatty liver in time as well as, in the case of a healthy liver without steatosis, protecting it and putting it in the best conditions to work, without stress. To protect the liver and counteract hepatic steatosis, it is essential to follow a healthy lifestyle, with moderate physical activity and a balanced diet. Among the different nutrients, a role seems to be played by vitamin B3 or niacin, as some previous studies have suggested, since this vitamin stimulates cell metabolism. The research we are talking about today sheds light on this aspect.

Niacin or vitamin B3 for liver health

The study is very large and took into consideration data regarding the eating habits and health of 12,355 volunteers, all adults over 20 years of age. The volunteers were asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding their daily diet, in order to allow the scientists to evaluate the intake of vitamin B3 or niacin.

Then, the volunteers underwent medical examinations to evaluate the presence of fatty liver. What emerged is that higher quantities of vitamin B3 consumed in the diet are associated with a lower probability of developing fatty liver. On the contrary, taking a quantity of niacin below the recommended limits can cause, especially in women, an increased risk of developing fatty liver, which can even be up to 90%. Not only that, as underlined by the study authors themselves and on the basis of previous results, niacin is also able to reverse the process of fat accumulation in the liver and inflammation, thus also preventing fibrosis. Finally, in a person without hypertension, niacin showed a more powerful action in combating fatty liver.

Conclusions, food sources of vitamin B3 and warnings

The study we talked about today adds a new piece to our knowledge of the liver and the conditions or diseases that can affect it, such as fatty liver or liver inflammation. From today we know that it is not only important to ensure an active life and a healthy diet without excess alcohol, to combat diabetes, obesity and hypercholesterolemia, but also to take vitamin B3 or niacin following the guidelines. This vitamin is contained in bran, yeast, eggs, peanuts, whole grains, legumes, as well as fish, especially tuna and salmon, poultry and red meat. The recommended daily amount is 16 mg for men and 14 mg for women. Typically, a varied diet ensures these quantities. In case of a deficiency, which can affect the elderly, those who do strenuous jobs and those who practice high level sports, it may be useful to supplement it. However, the deficiency must be evaluated and diagnosed by the doctor because otherwise the risk is to take too much vitamins, which does not bring additional benefits to the liver but which can cause side effects such as headache, nausea, abdominal pain, itching and diarrhea.

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