For people with chronic liver disease, losing weight and getting more exercise helps their liver function better and improves their quality of life, new research shows. The findings, which are reported in the medical journal Gut, are based on a study of 31 overweight patients with liver disease who completed a 15-month weight loss and exercise program. Eighteen patients had hepatitis C and 13 had other types of chronic liver disease.
The program included regular meetings with a dietitian and 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise each week.
During the study period, 21 patients successfully dropped a few pounds and kept the weight off. On average, patients lost about 9 percent of their body weight, Dr. E. Powell, from Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, Australia, and colleagues note.
The amount of weight loss matched the degree of improvement in liver enzyme levels, a measure of how well the liver is functioning. However, maintaining weight loss was critical, as these enzyme levels rose again in 10 patients who were unable to keep the weight off.
Weight loss also had a beneficial effect on fasting serum insulin levels. Once again, this effect disappeared in subjects who regained their weight, the authors report.
Successful weight loss was linked to significant improvements in both physical and mental components of quality of life, the researchers report.
“This study demonstrates that investment in weight reduction has the ability to reduce risk factors associated with progression of liver disease,” the authors note. “These results suggest that treatment of overweight patients should form an important component of management of those with chronic liver disease.”