Zhanxiang Zhou, PhD, with the UNC Greensboro Center for Translational Biomedical Research at the NC Research Campus in Kannapolis, published new findings in the July 2014 edition of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research that established a connection between niacin supplementation and lowering lipid levels in the liver.
Zhou researches the pathology of and potential treatments for alcohol-induced fatty liver disease. His recent paper, “Dietary Nicotonic Acid Supplementation Ameliorates Chronic Alcohol-induced Fatty Liver in Rats,” demonstrated in an animal model that niacin supplementation reduced liver lipids significantly in only eight weeks by accelerating fatty acid oxidation, which is the breakdown of fatty acids. His study also showed that niacin supplementation remarkably increased the blood adiponectin level, an adipose secreted hormone, which stimulates fatty acid oxidation in the liver.
Alcohol- and non-alcohol induced fatty liver disease are the leading cause of liver damage and often progress to serious medical conditions such as steatohepatitis, cirrhosis or liver cancer.
The niacin finding builds on Zhou’s 2012 study published in The American Journal of Pathology that found that zinc supplementation lowers liver lipid levels by reversing the tendency for chronic alcohol consumption to cause the body to store fat in the liver instead of adipose tissue.
Along with continued research on niacin and zinc, Zhou and his team are investigating alcohol- induced fatty liver disease from the perspective of the gut-liver axis. They are specifically looking at the effects of alcohol on other internal organs such as the intestines and how that could lead to inflammation and fat accumulation in the liver. In addition, Zhou is investigating how to stimulate specific enzymes responsible for detoxifying the liver and the potential benefit of saturated fats.
“Long chain saturated fats seem to provide protection against liver damage by attenuating endotoxin signaling and inflammation in the liver,” Zhou explained. “It seems speeding up endotoxin detoxification in the liver could be a promising strategy for treating alcoholic liver disease.”
The goal for Zhou is to help develop the first US Food and Drug Administration approved treatment for alcohol-induced fatty liver disease.
“There is no approved treatment for alcoholic fatty liver disease right now,” Zhou said. “We hope we can make a cocktail to work on different organ systems to protect against alcohol induced fatty liver disease.”
Learn more about Dr. Zhou and the UNC Greensboro Center for Translational Biomedical Research.