Scientists from Karolinska Institutet and elsewhere found that higher vitamin D levels in the body may help prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the build-up of extra fat in liver cells that is not caused by alcohol. It is normal for the liver to contain some fat.
However, if more than 5% – 10% percent of the liver’s weight is fat, then it is called a fatty liver (steatosis).
Body vitamin D level and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are linked to each other in many previous studies, but the causality of this association is unclear, especially in European people.
In the current study, researchers aimed to address the issue.
They analyzed 7 genetic variants linked to vitamin D levels in the body and 6 genetic variants linked to NAFLD.
Data for vitamin D levels were obtained from the Study of Underlying Genetic Determinants of Vitamin D and Highly Related Traits consortium including almost 80,000 people.
Data for NAFLD were available from a genome-wide association meta-analysis (1483 cases and 17,781 people without the disease), the FinnGen consortium (894 cases and 217,898 without the disease), and the UK Biobank study (275 cases and 360,919 without the disease).
In addition, data for 4 liver enzymes were obtained from the UK Biobank.
The researchers found there were genetic correlations of vitamin D levels in the body with NAFLD and certain liver enzymes.
Genetically predicted higher levels of vitamin D in the body were consistently linked to a decreased risk of NAFLD.
For an increase in genetically predicted vitamin D levels, the risk of NAFLD was lower.
Genetically predicted higher levels of vitamin D showed an association with lower risks of liver diseases.
Based on the findings, the team concludes that increased vitamin D levels may play a role in NAFLD prevention in European people.
The research was published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology and conducted by Shuai Yuan and Susanna C Larsson.
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