Treatment for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver With Different Doses of Vitamin E



- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an excess accumulation of fat in the liver cells. It is associated with obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Some people with NAFLD only have excess fat in the liver. However, other people may develop a worse form of NAFLD with liver injury and scarring. This form, called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), can lead to liver failure, liver cancer, and death. Not much is known about why some people develop NASH and others do not.

- Lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and weight loss can decrease the liver damage in NAFLD. Some studies show that vitamin E can also help treat NAFLD. The dose of vitamin E used in these studies is almost 40 times the recommended amount of vitamin E intake from food. It is unclear whether a lower dose could achieve the same effect. Researchers also want to study how vitamin E works at different doses to treat NAFLD.


- To find out the most effective dose of vitamin E to treat NAFLD.

- To gain a better understanding of how NAFLD and NASH develop, and predict who will respond to treatment.


- Individuals at least 18 years of age with suggestion of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.


- Participants will be screened with a physical exam and medical history. Blood and urine samples will be collected.

- For the first 12 weeks of the study, participants will meet with a nutritionist. They will have personalized diet and exercise plans. Treatment will be monitored with diaries and questionnaires to fill out at home. Participants will also wear a pedometer to measure physical activity.

- After the 12-week period, participants will have a full physical examination with the following tests:

- Blood tests

- Glucose tolerance tests

- Imaging studies (DEXA scan and magnetic resonance imaging)

- Liver and fatty tissue biopsy

- Two weeks after the tests, participants will start vitamin E treatment. They will take up to two pills a day, taken with fat-containing foods.

- 4 weeks after starting treatment they will have a repeat full evaluation with imaging tests, blood work, and liver and fat biopsies.

- Participants who are taking vitamin E will take it for up to 120 weeks. They will have monitoring visits every 8 to 12 weeks. At the end of 120 weeks, they will have another full evaluation, with imaging tests, blood work, and liver and fat biopsies.

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Basic Science
    • Masking: None (Open Label)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: August 30, 2019

Detailed Description

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause for liver test abnormalities in the western world, and an increasingly rising cause for liver-related morbidity and mortality. Vitamin E, a fat-soluble anti-oxidant was recently found to be an effective treatment for NAFLD; however, its mechanism of action is unclear. In a controlled clinical trial vitamin E treatment was shown to significantly reduce the hepatic fat burden, suggesting mechanisms other than reducing oxidative stress are involved. Furthermore, the optimal dose of vitamin E to treat NAFLD is unknown.

We propose a phase IIa study to determine the optimal dose of vitamin E and its mechanism and site of action. In this study we aim to enroll up to 90 patients with NAFLD. Initially, all patients will undergo 12 weeks of intensive lifestyle modification. Following that, all patients will be randomized to treatment with 3 different doses of natural vitamin E (rrr- -tocopherol at 200, 400 or 800 IU/d) for 24 weeks. The primary end points for efficacy are normalization of liver enzymes and reduction in liver fat contents by magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Patients will undergo liver and adipose tissue biopsies before vitamin E treatment and after 4 weeks of therapy, and the biopsy samples will be used to measure changes in gene expression and markers of oxidative stress. This will be coupled with extensive phenotyping before and after treatment using serological, radiological and dynamic endocrine testing and is aimed at finding the dose-response characteristics of vitamin E in NAFLD, and allowing us to understand the mechanism of its action.

After 24 weeks of randomized treatment, all patients will be switched to a dose of 800 IU/ml and will continue treatment for up to 30 months, at the end of which another liver biopsy will be performed. From this phase we will assess the effects of dose increase of vitamin E on liver enzymes and fat content, and will determine the effect of long-term treatment on histological outcome.


  • Drug: Vitamin E 200 IU/d
    • Supplement-low dose
  • Drug: Vitamin E 400 IU/d
    • Supplement-intermediate dose
  • Drug: Vitamin E 800 IU/d
    • Supplement High Dose
  • Behavioral: Diet and Exercise
    • Diet and Exercise for all Arms of the study at baseline

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Active Comparator: Vit E 200 IU/d
    • Subjects randomized to vitamin E 200 IU/day for 24 weeks; invited to optional extension of open- label vitamin E 800 IU /day for up to 120 weeks following the initial 24 week period.
  • Active Comparator: Vitamin E 400
    • Subjects randomized to vitamin E 400 IU/day for 24 weeks; invited to optional extension of open- label vitamin E 800 IU/day for up to 120 weeks following the initial 24 week period.
  • Active Comparator: Vitamin E 800
    • Subjects randomized to vitamin E 800 IU /day for 24 weeks; invited to optional extension of open- label vitamin E 800 IU /day for up to 120 weeks following the initial 24 week period.

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • Biochemical: Percent of patients with normal transaminases at end of treatment. Physiological: Absolute change in liver fat content by 1H-MRS
    • Time Frame: 24 weeks
    • Biochemical response

Secondary Measures

  • Percent and relative change in transaminases and GGT. Percent change in liver fat content.
    • Time Frame: 39 months

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

Clinical suspicion of NAFLD, defined by the presence of at least two of the following criteria:

  • Suggestion of liver fat by an imaging study (ultrasound, CT scan, MRI or MR spectroscopy) performed in the 6 months prior to enrollment.
  • Elevated aminotransferase levels (ALT > 31 U/L for men or > 19 U/L for women, or AST > 30 U/L) on at least two occasions in the 6 months preceding enrollment.
  • Presence of the metabolic syndrome, defined according to the modified AHA/NCEP criteria as the presence of at least three of:
  • Abdominal obesity, defined as waist circumference > 102 cm for men or > 88 cm for women
  • Elevated triglycerides (> 150 mg/dL) or the use of medication to lower triglycerides
  • Reduced HDL cholesterol (< 40 mg/DL for men or < 50 mg/dL for women)
  • Elevated blood pressure (> 135/80 mmHg) or use of medication for hypertension
  • Elevated fasting glucose levels (> 100 mg/dL) or use of anti-diabetic medication
  • For the purpose of inclusion, the presence of overt diabetes mellitus type 2 will be considered equivalent to the presence of the metabolic syndrome, even if the other criteria are absent.
  • Estimated average alcohol consumption < 30 g/d for men or < 20 g/d for women in the 6 months prior to enrollment and no binge-drinking behavior.
  • Age > 18 years at enrollment
  • Willingness to participate in the study

Exclusion Criteria

  • Chronic infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) or hepatitis B virus (HBV). Patients who were treated successfully for HCV and achieved sustained virological response can be eligible for enrollment > 18 months after treatment cessation. Patients who are inactive carriers of HBV (HBV DNA < 1000 copies/mL, HBeAg negative, Anti HDV negative) for at least 12 months prior to enrollment are also eligible. Patients receiving antiviral therapy are ineligible.
  • Concomitant liver disease such as autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, Wilson s disease, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.
  • Presence of definite or probable drug-induced liver injury. In the case of lipid-lowering, anti-hypertensive or anti-diabetic medications that are suspected to cause elevation of aminotransferases, patients will be eligible if treatment is associated with stable enzyme levels for at least 6 months and inclusion criteria 1a. and 1c. are both present.
  • Treatment with medications known to cause fatty liver disease such as atypical neuroleptics, tetracycline, methotrexate or tamoxifen
  • Uncontrolled hypo- or hyperthyroidism.
  • Decompensated advanced liver disease, defined as direct bilirubin > 0.5 g/dL, PT > 18, albumin < 3 g/dL, or history of ascites, encephalopathy, variceal bleeding, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis or liver transplant.
  • Active coronary artery disease, defined as persistent angina pectoris, reversible ischemia on cardiac stress test or imaging, or the presence of significant coronary artery disease on imaging or catheterization. Patients with coronary artery disease that was treated by angioplasty or bypass surgery may be eligible if they have no evidence of active disease >= 1 year after intervention, can safely stop antiplatelet and anticoagulant medications before the performance of invasive procedures, and have adequate ventricular function as assessed by echocardiography or cardiology consultation. These patients will require cardiology consultation and clearance prior to enrollment.
  • Congestive heart failure.
  • Chronic kidney disease, with creatinine clearance < 60 ml/h.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. Patients may be enrolled if they have been on stable therapy with any anti-diabetic agent for at least 3 months prior to enrollment, are not foreseen by the physician treating their diabetes to require antidiabetic medication or dose changes during the trial and have an HbA1c <= 7.5% on enrollment.
  • Treatment with vitamin E. Patients who are currently taking vitamin E as a supplement will be requested to stop for at least 3 months before becoming eligible for enrollment. Patients who are taking vitamin E for a medical indication other than NAFLD will not be eligible.
  • Contraindication to or inability to undergo a liver biopsy.
  • Patients who had a liver biopsy performed <= 2 years before enrollment, unless they are willing to undergo all of the trial biopsies, knowing that these biopsies are purely for research and are not clinically indicated. This will be clearly documented in the patients charts prior to enrollment.
  • Patients with coagulopathy (PT/PTT values that are prolonged >= 3 seconds from the upper limit of the normal, including treatment with oral and parenteral anticoagulants), thrombocytopenia (<70,000), or platelet dysfunction will not be enrolled because of potential increase in risk of bleeding with vitamin E treatment. Antiplatelet agents taken for cardiovascular prevention will not exclude patients, unless they cannot be stopped safely for the performance of a liver biopsy.
  • Maldigestion or malabsorption that can interfere with absorption of vitamin E including: steatorrhea of all causes, chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, short bowel syndrome, severe cholestasis, orlistat treatment and similar conditions
  • Inability to swallow vitamin E capsules
  • Allergy to vitamin E
  • Alcohol or substance abuse within the past 12 months. Patients will be required to have an AUDIT score of 7 or less18, and drink no more than 14 drinks/week (for men) or 7 drinks/week (for women).
  • For women of childbearing age, pregnancy or inability (or unwillingness) to practice contraception for the duration of the study or breast feeding.
  • Inability to understand and give informed consent for participation.

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: N/A

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: No

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Yaron Rotman, M.D., Principal Investigator, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

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