By Natalie San Luis
Fatty liver disease develops when fat collects in the liver, preventing normal filtration and sometimes causing organ damage. A new study looked at vitamin D's role in this disease.
Researchers compared vitamin D levels of non-obese patients, some of whom had fatty liver disease.
These researchers found that low vitamin D levels were linked to a higher risk of liver disease.
Although the study's results did not suggest that low vitamin D levels caused liver disease, the authors proposed that vitamin D may help the liver process fat.
Dr. Benan Kasapoglu of the Turgut Ozal University Hospital in Ankara, Turkey led this study on vitamin D levels and fatty liver disease.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease occurs when the liver of a person who does not drink much has trouble breaking down fats, causing fat build up in liver tissue.
Fatty liver disease is frequently seen in patients who are obese or have Diabetes, a disease characterized by insulin resistance.
According to the authors of this study, previous research has shown a link between insulin resistance and low vitamin D levels. These findings prompted the researchers to find out if there was a link between fatty liver disease and low vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. The body creates vitamin D through exposure to sunlight.
For their study, Dr. Kasapoglu and colleagues recruited 613 non-obese participants, 274 of whom had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
These researchers gathered information on each patient's height, weight, blood sugar, cholesterol levels and more. They also took the patients' vitamin D levels and designated them as normal or low.
Each participant also underwent a liver scan to determine the extent of liver damage, if any.
The researchers found that the patients who had low vitamin D levels were 1.59 times more likely than their counterparts to have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Additionally, vitamin D levels continued to decrease as the liver disease became more advanced.
The authors suggested that vitamin D may play a role in preventing the accumulation in the liver. However, they called for molecular studies to clarify how vitamin D acts on the liver.
The authors noted that their study had some limitations. First, the fatty liver disease was diagnosed through a scan, not a biopsy (extraction of tissue). Also, patients' vitamin D levels were measured at different times of the year, which may have affected whether they had low levels.
This research was published in Clinical Medicine on December 1.
The authors did not disclose funding information or conflicts of interest.