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Eur J Intern Med. 2004 Feb;15(1):10-21.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis: review of a growing medical problem.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Maastricht, P.O. Box 5800, 6202 AZ, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a metabolic liver disorder that is seen in 2-6% of the general population. It manifests itself by elevated liver enzymes, frequently without symptoms. The histological findings include steatosis, inflammation, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Three case reports are presented to illustrate features of NASH. A two-hit model has been proposed in the pathogenesis of NASH. The first hit is hepatic steatosis. A hypercaloric diet with high levels of carbohydrates and saturated fatty acids results in elevated plasma free fatty acids (FFA) and expands the adipose tissue. Insulin resistance develops and augments steatosis. Oxidation of FFA yields toxic free radicals, resulting in lipid peroxidation. They cause the second hits: increased oxidative stress on hepatocytes and induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines. When the antioxidant capacities of the liver are insufficient, mitochondrial dysfunction and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) cause inflammation and fibrosis. Treatment consists of life style modifications, particularly weight loss and exercise. Many drugs have been tried in the treatment of NASH. The insulin-sensitizing drugs metformin, rosiglitazone, and pioglitazone, and the antioxidant vitamin E show promising results. Further investigation of therapeutic options is needed to direct the choice of therapy in the future.

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