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Aerobic Exercise Reduces Fatty Liver
Alan Franciscus

by Alan Franciscus

Readers of the HCV Advocate are familiar with my steady rap about exercise as a strategy for living well with hepatitis C.  A study released earlier this month is adding to the growing body of knowledge on the benefits of exercise – at least from the standpoint of helping with fatty liver. While the study did not specifically address fatty liver and hepatitis C it seems like a no-brainer that this information can be translated into strategies that will help those living with hepatitis C. 

The authors of the study wanted to find out what the effect of aerobic exercise was on liver fat.  The study enrolled 15 males and 8 females.  All 23 patients were obese (≥ 30 kg/m2), self-reported an inactive lifestyle (very little exercise) and low alcohol consumption (0-20 grams/day). 

Nineteen patients were put on a supervised exercise program for 4 weeks.  The exercise program consisted of an aerobic cycling exercise that was based on standard physical activity recommendations. 

The remaining patients were put on a self-reported 30-minute stretching program for 4 weeks.  The diet for both groups was not restricted and, in fact, all of the participants were encouraged to consume their usual diet. 

The researchers then ran various tests (imaging techniques and blood work).  At the end of the 4-week study period it was found that aerobic exercise significantly reduced visceral adipose tissue (body fat especially around the abdominal area) volume by 12% (P < 0.01) and hepatic triglyceride concentration (fat in the liver) by 21% (P < 0.05).  This was also associated with a significant (14%) reduction in plasma free fatty acids (P<0.05).

Of note: exercise training in this study did not lower body weight or body mass index.  In other words the aerobic exercise reduced the level of fat in the liver but without any weight loss.  The authors concluded that regular exercise may diminish some of the consequences of obesity.  The authors noted that, “Physical activity should be strongly promoted for the management of fatty liver, the benefits of which are not exclusively contingent upon weight loss.” 

“Aerobic Exercise Training Reduces Hepatic and Visceral Lipids in Obese Individuals without Weight Loss,” Nathan A. Johnson, Toos Sachinwalla, David W. Walton, Kate Smith, Ashley Armstrong, Martin W. Thompson, and Jacob George  Hepatology, Early View (Articles online in advance of print). Published Online: 15 Jun 2009.


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