New research suggests that estrogen protects women with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) from severe liver fibrosis. According to the study published online in Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, men are at higher risk of more severe fibrosis compared to women prior to menopause, but liver fibrosis severity is similar in men and post-menopausal women.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) includes a range of liver disorders from simple fatty liver to inflammation, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. With the rapid rise in obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, the prevalence of NAFLD-the result of insulin resistance-has also steadily increased. In fact, studies suggest that the NAFLD prevalence is 10% to 30%, making it the most common liver disease in the U.S.
"While most NAFLD patients have a mild disease known as fatty liver or hepatic steatosis, some patients present with NASH, which is more severe and increases overall mortality," explains Dr. Ayako Suzuki with the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, the lead author of the present study. "Our study aim was to investigate whether gender and menopause significantly impact fibrosis severity among adult patients with NAFLD."