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Editor's e-Note
Exercise has been recommended to patents with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease to help with weight loss. But Japanese researchers have found that the beneficial effects of exercise extend beyond weight management. They followed men on a three-month exercise regimen and, in addition to better preservation of muscle mass, found that participants exhibited reduced liver steatosis and fibrosis.

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— Kate Jackson, editor
e-News Exclusive
Exercise for Liver Health

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver disorder worldwide, affecting as much as one-quarter of humanity. It is characterized by fat accumulation in liver cells and may progress to inflammation, cirrhosis, and liver failure. Now, researchers at the University of Tsukuba reveal the positive effects, beyond the expected weight-loss benefit, of exercise on the liver.

NAFLD is associated with unhealthy behaviors such as overeating and a sedentary lifestyle. In Japan, 41% of middle-aged men have NAFLD, and 25% will progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and hepatic dysfunction.

Weight reduction is fundamental to NAFLD management. Unfortunately, achieving a targeted bodyweight without supervision is difficult, and maintaining this over time even more so. Hitherto, exercise was considered adjunctive to dietary restrictions for weight loss, but the other benefits such as reduced hepatic steatosis (fatty change) and stiffness are being increasingly recognized. However, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear.

“We compared data from obese Japanese men with NAFLD on a three-month exercise regimen with those on dietary restriction targeting weight loss,” explains Junichi Shoda, MD, PhD, a professor at the University of Tsukuba and senior author. “We tracked hepatic parameters, reduction in adipose tissue, increase in muscle strength, reductions in inflammation and oxidative stress, changes in organokine concentrations, and expression of target genes of Nrf2, an oxidative stress sensor.”

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