Metformin is effective in achieving biochemical response in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (nafld) not responding to lifestyle interventions*
Annals of Hepatology 2007; 6(4): October-December: 222-226
Metformin is effective in achieving biochemical
response in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
(NAFLD) not responding to lifestyle interventions*
Ajay Duseja;1 Ashim Das;2 Radha Krishan Dhiman;1 Yogesh Kumar Chawla;1 Kiran K. Thumburu;1 Sanjay Bhadada;3 Anil
same cohort treated only with lifestyle interventions
(disease controls). Results: Thirteen (52%) patients
Background: Insulin resistance plays an important
had class III (n = 5) or class IV (n = 8) disease amount-
role in the pathogenesis of NAFLD. Pharmacological
ing to histological NASH. Of these 13 patients none
treatment of patients with NAFLD is still evolving. In-
had severe inflammation and none had stage 4 fibro-
sulin sensitizing drugs like metformin may be effec-
sis (cirrhosis). All 25 patients with NAFLD had insulin
tive in these patients. Twenty five adult patients with
resistance in comparison to healthy controls. In com-
NAFLD who did not achieve normalization of alanine
parison to disease controls (127.5 ± 41.8 vs. 118 ±
transaminases (ALT) after 6 months of lifestyle inter-
21.6 p = NS), all patients treated with metformin had
ventions and UDCA were treated with metformin
partial biochemical response (mean ALT 122.2 ± 26.8
500mg tid for 6 months. Insulin resistance was deter-
vs 74.3 ± 4.2 p < 0.01) and 14 (56%) of them achieved
mined by HOMA- IR. Liver function tests were done
complete normalization of ALT. Conclusions: Met-
monthly and patients were defined having no re-
formin is effective to achieve biochemical response in
sponse, partial response or complete biochemical re-
patients with NAFLD who do not respond to lifestyle
sponse depending on the change in ALT. Results were
interventions and UDCA.
compared with 25 patients with NAFLD from the
Key words: Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, NASH, insu-
* This work was presented at the Asian Pacific Digestive Week at
lin resistance, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome,
Cebu City, Philippines in November 2006 (J Gastroenterol
2006; 21 (suppl 6): A457).
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) includes
Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research,
patients with simple steatosis and nonalcoholic steato-
hepatitis (NASH), which can even progress to cirrhosis
and hepatocellular carcinoma.1,2 Pharmacological treat-ment of patients with NAFLD is still evolving and since
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease - NAFLD, nonalcoholic
insulin resistance (IR) plays a key role in the pathogene-
steatohepatitis - NASH, , insulin resistance -IR, ursodeoxycholic
sis of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), insulin
acid - UDCA, alanine transaminase - ALT, hepatitis B surfaceantigen -HBsAg, anti hepatitis C virus antbodies - anti HCV,
sensitizing drugs like metformin may have role in the
anti-nuclear antibody - ANA, anti-smooth muscle antibody -
ASMA, anti-liver kidney microsomal antibody - LKM, anti-
Objective of this study was to determine the role of met-
mitochondrial antibody - AMA, body mass index -BMI, world
formin in achieving biochemical response in patients with
health organization – WHO, fasting plasma glucose - FPG, highdensity lipoprotein –HDL, low density lipoprotein - LDL,
nonalcoholic fatty liver disease who did not respond to life-
triglycerides - TG, tumor necrosis factor alpha - TNF-α,
style interventions and ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA).
homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance - HOMA- IR.
Patients and methods
Address for correspondence:Dr. Ajay Duseja MD, DM, MNAMS, FACGDepartment of Hepatology
PGIMER Chandigarh, IndiaPhone-91-172-2756336 Fax-91-172-2744401
In a prospective analysis (April 2001 – March 2007), 25
patients with NAFLD who did not have complete biochemi-
Manuscript received and accepted: 10 and 17 October 2007
cal response after 6 months of lifestyle interventions and
Ajay Duseja et al. Metformin is effective in achieving biochemical response in patients with (NAFLD)
UDCA were included in the study after an informed consent.
The project had the approval of institute’s ethical committee.
Life style interventions included moderate sustained exercise
Metabolic syndrome was defined by the presence of at
like brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling etc at least for
least ≥ 3 out of five modified adult treatment panel III
30-45 minutes per day, low fat and low calorie diet and slow
criteria including modified abnormal waist as per the
weight reduction (10% of base line in 6 months, not more
Asia Pacific criteria, FPG >110 mg/dL, hypertension
than 1.6 Kg/week) in those with overweight and obesity.
(blood pressure ≥ 130/85 mmHg or on anti-hypertensive
UDCA was given in a dosage of 300 mg twice daily. Inclu-
drugs), serum triglycerides > 150 mg/dL, and serum high
sion criteria were adult (> 16 yrs.) nonalcoholic individuals
density lipoprotein (HDL) < 40 mg/dL (males) & < 50
(total abstinence or intake less than 20 g/day, confirmed by
two family members) with raised serum alanine aminotrans-ferase (ALT) (> 1.5 x ULN x at least 6 months), ultrasound
showing hyperechoic liver or other features of steatosis, nega-tive viral markers (HBsAg, anti HCV - 3rd generation), nega-
Histologically patients were classified into four
tive autoimmune markers [anti-nuclear antibody (ANA), anti-
classes as per Matteoni et al (Class – 1 = Simple ste-
smooth muscle antibody (ASMA), anti-liver kidney microso-
atosis, Class – 2 = Steatosis + lobular inflammation,
mal antibody (LKM), anti-mitochondrial antibody (AMA)],
Class – 3 = + Ballooned hepatocytes, Class – 4 = +
normal serum ceruloplasmin & absent Keyser Fleisher rings
Mallory hyaline or fibrosis) and those patients with
on slit lamp examination, normal iron parameters and a liver bi-
class 3 or 4 were defined as having NASH.14 Further
opsy consistent with NAFLD. Pregnant females and patients
patients with NASH were graded and staged according
with diabetes mellitus were excluded from the study.
Twenty five patients with NAFLD from the same cohort
Insulin resistance was determined by homeostasis
with comparable age, gender, BMI, waist, baseline ALT,
model assessment for insulin resistance ( HOMA- IR) cal-
insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome were included
culated as the product of fasting insulin (µU/L) and fast-
as disease controls. These patients were also non respond-
ing plasma glucose (mmol/L) divided by 22.5. An abso-
er to lifestyle interventions and UDCA and were contin-
lute value of HOMA-IR > 1.64 was taken as abnormal.3,16
ued on only lifestyle interventions without metformin
Treatment and follow up
Patients were treated with tablet metformin 500 mg/tid
for 6 months in addition to the life style interventions.
All patients underwent a detailed physical examina-
Disease controls were continued on only lifestyle inter-
tion including anthropometry. Overweight (BMI ≥ 23
ventions without metformin. Liver function tests were
but < 25 kg/m2), obesity (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2) and abnor-
done monthly and patients were defined as having no re-
mal waist circumference [> 90 cm (males), > 80 cm (fe-
sponse, partial response or complete biochemical re-
males)] were defined as per the Asia Pacific criteria.10,11
sponse depending on the change in ALT.
Diabetes mellitus was defined as per the WHO criteria
with fasting plasma glucose (FPG) ≥ 126 mg/dL or plas-
All data is expressed in mean ± SD until otherwise
ma glucose ≥ 200 mg/dL in a symptomatic patient or a 2-
specified. Students‘t’ test, chi square test and Mann-
hour plasma glucose on glucose tolerance test ≥ 200 mg/
Whitney U test were used to determine the differences be-
dL12 and patients qualifying these criteria were excluded
tween different groups. A p value of < 0.05 was taken as
from the study. Lipid profile was taken as abnormal when
serum cholesterol was > 200 mg/dL, serum high-densitylipoprotein (HDL) < 40 mg/dL in males & < 50 mg/dL in
females, serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) > 130 mg/dL and serum triglycerides were > 150 mg/dL.13
In addition to measurement of fasting serum insulin
levels (radioimmunoassay), fasting C-peptide (ELISA)
There were 25 patients (males 17 mean age 36.4 ± 9.2
and serum TNF- α (ELISA) levels were also determined
years). Other clinical and biochemical details including
metabolic syndrome are shown in Table I
Annals of Hepatology 6(4) 2007: 222-226
had partial biochemical response (mean ALT 122.2 ±26.8 vs
74.3 ± 4.2 p < 0.01) and 14 (56%) of them
Details of the histopathology are shown in Table II.
achieved complete normalization of ALT and continue to
Thirteen (52%) patients had class III (n = 5) or class IV
do so on follow up for 3 months (Figure 1)
. No patient
(n = 8) disease amounting to histological NASH. Of these
experienced any side effect and there were no dropouts.
13 patients none had severe inflammation and none hadstage 4 fibrosis (cirrhosis).
Insulin resistance, which is responsible for increased
lipolysis from adipose tissue and hepatic steatosis, is
Patients with NAFLD had significantly higher HOMA-
very common in patients with NAFLD.3,17 Increased fatty
IR in comparison to the historical healthy controls.
acid oxidation, oxidative stress and cytokines may lead
(Mean HOMA – IR = 7.6 ± 2.9 vs
1.4 ± 1.2) (p = < 0.01).
on to steatohepatitis and its consequences in some ofthese patients.18 All our patients with NAFLD had IR as
demonstrated by significantly higher HOMA-IR in com-parison to healthy controls. High C-peptide to insulin ra-
Though BMI did not change significantly in both the
tio (Table I)
in our patients with NAFLD is indicative of
groups, in comparison to disease controls (127.5 ± 41.8
primary insulin resistance in these patients rather than
118 ± 21.6 p = NS), all patients treated with metformin
the hyperinsulinemia occurring due to decreased hepaticextraction of insulin due to any liver disease.1
First line of treatment in patients with NAFLD is al-
Baseline characteristics of 25 patients with NAFLD.
ways weight reduction by life style interventions andcontrol of other risk factors. Pharmacological treatment
for NAFLD is still evolving and there is no single agent,
which is effective in achieving the complete response.19
Earlier studies did show UDCA to be an effective mode
of treatment in these patients20 but a recent randomized
placebo controlled trial showed that UDCA is no better
than placebo in the treatment of patients with NASH.21
The options in patients like ours who do not respond to
above measures are limited. Since insulin resistance is
the major pathogenetic mechanism, insulin-sensitizing
drugs have a role in the treatment.22-24 Thiazolidinediones
group of drugs including troglitazone, rosiglitazone and
BMI – Body mass indexALT – Alanine aminotransferaseTNF – Tumor necrosis factorHDL – High-density lipoproteinLDL – Low-density lipoproteinTG – Triglycerides
Liver histology in 25 patients with NAFLD.
NASH (class III+ IV) on histology (n =13)
Shows significant change in ALT in the patients who
got metformin (patients) in comparison to those continued on
only lifestyle modifications (disease controls). There was nochange in BMI in both groups.
Ajay Duseja et al. Metformin is effective in achieving biochemical response in patients with (NAFLD)
pioglitazone have been used in the treatment of NAFLD.
3. Chitturi S, Abeygunasekera S, Farrell GC, Holmes-Walker J, Hui
Troglitazone has been withdrawn from the market due to
JM, Fung C, Karim R, et al. NASH and insulin resistance: Insulin
its potential hepatotoxicity, which has been described
hypersecretion and specific association with the insulin resistancesyndrome. Hepatology
2002; 35: 373-9.
even with rosiglitazone and pioglitazone.22-24
4. Chavez-Tapia NC, Barrientos-Gutierrez T, Tellez-Avila FI,
Metformin through its anti- TNF and insulin sensitiz-
Sanchez-Avila F, Montano-Reyes MA, Uribe M. Insulin sensitiz-
ing actions is an effective drug for achieving biochemi-
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2006 28; 12: 7826-31.
5. Duseja A, Murlidharan R, Bhansali A, Sharma S, Das A, Das R,
both experimental25 and in patients4-9 with NAFLD is
Chawla Y. Assessment of insulin resistance and effect of
evolving. Most of the studies on metformin are open la-
metformin in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis – a preliminary report.
bel studies.4,8 One randomized trial using metformin
Indian J Gastroenterol
2004; 23: 12-5.
found it to be better than vitamin E and lifestyle inter-
6. Marchesini G, Brizi M, Bianchi G, Tomasserti S, Zoli M,
Melchionda N. Metformin in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Lan-
ventions in improving the liver biochemistry and histo-
logical activity including steatosis, inflammation and fi-
7. Uygun A, Kadayifci A, Isik AT, Ozqurtas T, Deveci S, Tuzun A,
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another study 36 patients with NASH were randomized
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8. Nair S, Diehl AM, Wiseman M, Farr GH Jr, Perrillo RP. Metformin
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9. Bugianesi E, Gentilcore E, Manini R, Natale S, Vanni E, Villanova
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10. Steering Committee of the Western Pacific region of the World
greater than those in the group given dietary treatment
Health Organization. The International Association for the study
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of Obesity and the International Study Task Force
. The Asia-Pacific perspective; redefining obesity and its treatment, 8-56.
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Australia: Health Communications; 2000.
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, 31-3. Geneva: World Health
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13. Expert panel on detection evaluation and treatment of high cho-
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TWO HEADED DOG AT THE MAD HATTER IN COVINGTON / SCOTT BESELER | HIDE PHOTO GIVE US YOUR EMAIL AND WE WILL GIVE YOU OUR This week's blogger, P.G. Sittenfeld, subscribes to the adage that 'it takes a village' to educate a child. In this case, Sittenfeld, the Director of Community Engagement for The Community Learning Center Institute, says Cincinnati has much to be proud of
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