As many as one quarter of adults in industrialized countries have excessive fat accumulation in the liver (fatty liver), a common cause of chronic liver disease which is frequently associated with obesity and diabetes.
Based on the understanding that fatty liver is associated with low levels of insulin and insulin-resistance, Anna Mae Diehl and coleagues at Johns Hopkins University tested the ability of the oral diabetes drug, metformin - which sensitizes the body to the effects of insulin - to improve the condition Nature Medicine (Vol 6, No. 9, September 2000).
The team found that metformin improved fatty liver disease in mice with a mutation in the obese (ob) gene, which develop obesity, diabetes and fatty liver. They propose that metformin achieves this by inhibiting liver production of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)a which promotes lipid accumulation.
Dr. Anna Mae Diehl
The Johns Hopkins University
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