Does Exercise Help with Clotting in NAFLD Patients?

A recent study conducted at the Penn State College of Medicine focused in on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), specifically blood clotting in this rare disorder. These researchers knew that exercise provided benefits in NAFLD patients, and they wanted to further investigate its benefits in patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) – a subtype of NAFLD.

About the Study

The lead on this clinical trial was Dr. Jonathan Stine, who is an associate professor of medicine and public health sciences at the College of Medicine and a transplant hepatologist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. He enrolled 24 NASH patients in the trial, 16 of which were chosen to complete an exercise and dietary program for 20 weeks.

Upon completion of the trial, the following results were produced:

  • Patients in the exercise and diet group saw significant reductions in plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1)
    • This protein allows blood clots to stay formed for longer periods of time
  • Patients in the exercise and diet group saw improved quality of life (QOL)
  • Patients in the exercise and diet group saw a larger increase in cardiorespiratory fitness compared to the remaining eight patients
  • Patients in the exercise and diet group saw a larger decrease in liver fat that those in the control group
  • Patients in the exercise and diet group saw changes in insulin levels and blood sugar levels

Looking Forward

As there are currently no cure or therapies specifically for NAFLD, this research marks a positive step forward in the management of this liver disorder. To build off of these findings, researchers are planning another study to evaluate how different amounts of exercise and dietary counseling impact blood clotting and other factors in NAFLD and NASH.

About NAFLD

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which there is an excess of fat in the liver that is not associated with the consumption of alcohol. This is an umbrella condition for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and nonalcoholic fatty liver.

Symptoms:

Initial symptoms include fatigue and pain in the upper right abdomen. As the condition progresses, symptoms will turn into an enlarged spleen, swelling in the abdomen, enlarged blood vessels, jaundice, and red palms.

There are also complications that come with NAFLD, such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure, and cardiovascular disease.

About NASH

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a disease where fat build-up in the liver causes inflammation and liver damage in non-drinkers or people who drink very little. It is not always symptomatic, and it does not always get worse. However, NASH can end up causing scar tissue which prevents the liver from functioning. It mimics the liver disease that affects long-term heavy drinkers.

NASH affects up to 25% of people in the United States. Although it affects those with no risk factors, it is more likely to develop in patients who are diabetic, have high cholesterol, or are obese.

Symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Appetite loss
  • Jaundice
  • Itching
  • Mental confusion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Leg/abdomen swelling
  • Spider-like blood vessels

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