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Lifestyle Changes Can Slow Liver Disease

Exercise, weight loss can halt progression of chronic condition, study finds

THURSDAY, Feb. 12, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Regular exercise and weight loss can slow progression of chronic liver disease in overweight people, says a study in the current issue of Gut.

The study included 31 people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which can progress to cirrhosis and liver cancer. The disease often afflicts people who are overweight, diabetic or who have insulin resistance syndrome, a precursor to diabetes.

The study participants dieted for 15 months, losing weight in the first three months and maintaining that new weight for 12 months. They did 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise every week for the entire 15 months. Before the study began, only 10 of the patients had done regular exercise.

Levels of liver enzymes, fats and glucose in the blood were measured at the start of the study, again at three months, and again at the end of the study period. The researchers also collected liver tissue samples from the patients and asked them to rate their quality of life.

By the end of the study period, 68 percent of the patients had maintained their weight loss. The researchers found their levels of the liver enzyme ALT were much lower by the end of the 15 months of weight control and exercise. High levels of ALT are associated with liver disease.

There was also a decline in their insulin levels. These improvements were obvious even in people who lost 4 percent to 5 percent of their body weight. Patients who lost weight also reported improved quality of life.

Ten of the patients regained their weight by the end of the 15 months, mostly because they did less than 2.5 hours of exercise per week. These people had increased liver ALT levels by the end of the study.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

SOURCE: BMJ Specialist Journals, news release, Feb. 12, 2004
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