Vitamin E for Your Fatty Liver

by David Mendosa Patient Advocate

With all the ways that we have now to treat fatty liver disease I don't understand why any of us still have it. Yet most people with diabetes suffer from this potentially dangerous condition.

Now we have yet another tool in our arsenal against fatty liver disease. It's a strange one. Not strange as in being unfamiliar, but rather strange as being surprising.

The new tool that may reverse fatty liver disease is vitamin E.

Years ago I had fatty liver disease myself. My late wife had it too. I was able to reverse it, but for her it eventually progressed to cirrhosis of the liver, which killed her three years ago.

Sadly, we didn't know then how serious fatty liver disease could be and about all the ways to avoid it. I've written here how milk thistle and metformin can help. So too can eating a diet high in omega-3 fats. Exercise certainly works, as I know from my own experience. Even a little exercise helps.

The latest word on potential treatments for fatty liver disease saw the light of day a week ago in the advance online edition of The New England Journal of Medicine. Many people consider this the world's leading medical journal. As of today only the abstract is free online, although I was able to download the full-text yesterday. The NEJM plans to publish the study in the printed journal tomorrow.

Researchers found that vitamin E improved the livers of people who had nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which lay people like us know as fatty liver disease. In the study 247 adults with advanced fatty liver disease were randomly assigned to take vitamin E or a placebo (dummy pills) for nearly two years. They found that 43 percent of those treated with vitamin E showed significant improvement in their liver, while only 19 percent of those who received a placebo got better.

The dose was 800 IU of the natural form of vitamin E. The specific form was "RRR-α-tocopherol (formerly known as d-α-tocopherol) vitamin E," according to the full-text of the research report.

"In all honesty, I was surprised," says the lead researcher, Arun J. Sanyal, M.D., of Virginia Commonwealth University. "A vitamin has not been previously used to cure a serious disease" that is not caused by a deficiency.

That vitamin E can help reverse fatty liver disease sure surprises me too. I used to be a believer in vitamin E. For many years, starting in the 1970s I took 2,000 IU of the natural form of vitamin E every day. But I stopped taking any vitamin E a few years ago when new clinical trials seem to show that it doesn't help prevent heart disease, cancer, or the other conditions for which believers had promoted it. Some studies even indicated that it might be harmful. One former believer, "The University of California Wellness Letter," a little more than a year ago recommended against taking any vitamin E.

I'm not going to start taking vitamin E again because I have my liver under control. And this is only one study, which needs to be confirmed by more. But for most people with diabetes who still have fatty liver disease, taking a regular 800 IU dose of the RRR-α-tocopherol form might well help reverse this dangerous condition. Strange, but hopefully true.

David Mendosa
Meet Our Writer
David Mendosa

David Mendosa was a journalist who learned in 1994 that he had type 2 diabetes, which he wrote about exclusively. He died in May 2017 after a short illness unrelated to diabetes. He wrote thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and published a monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 kept his diabetes in remission without any drugs until his death.