NCRC Scientists Advance Nutritional Interventions for Fatty Liver Disease

January 03, 2013

NC Research Campus, Kannapolis, NC- January 3, 2013)- Alcohol-induced and non-alcoholic induced fatty liver disease are serious health conditions with few treatment options. Both conditions can lead to the inflammation, scarring and even cancer of the liver. Based on studies involving the essential nutrients zinc and choline, scientists at the North Carolina Research Campus are advancing nutritional interventions for the treatment and prevention of both types of fatty liver disease.


Zinc Supplementation for Alcohol-Induced Fatty Liver
Zhanxiang Zhou, PhD, co-director of the UNC Greensboro Center for Translational Biomedical Research, was one of the first to published findings that proved an underlying cause of alcohol-induced fatty liver disease is an adipose tissue storage dysfunction, which causes fat to be stored in the liver instead of body tissue. Zhou’s research found that zinc supplementation in animal models restores the functionality of two key zinc transcription factors that regulate lipid metabolism in the liver leading to the prevention and even reversal of liver damage. Zhou is also investigating the potential use of polyphenols or bioactive compounds in fruits and vegetables as other sources of nutritional intervention to treat and prevent alcohol-induced fatty liver disease. Read more about Zhou’s research.
Choline and Genetics for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Research Associate Professor Karen Corbin, PhD, RD, with the UNC Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute (NRI), is uncovering the physiological mechanisms that contribute to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). She is researching the genetic variations in the choline pathway as well as intersecting pathways in folate, methionine, lipid and bile metabolism in order to identify individualized nutritional interventions that could help prevent and treat NAFLD and related disorders such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. She is also researching interventions that will lessen the chance that NAFLD will progress into liver cancer. Read more about Corbin’s research.


About Fatty Liver Disease
Both alcohol induced and non-alcohol induced fatty liver disease are an excess accumulation of fat in the cells of the liver that interrupts its metabolic functions causing inflammation, scarring or cirrhosis, and, in some people, liver cancer. According to the American Liver Foundation, liver disease is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists cirrhosis of the liver as one of the top 20 causes of death in the world. NAFLD is on the rise worldwide and is commonly found in conjunction with health conditions like obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.


About the NC Research Campus
The NC Research Campus in Kannapolis is home to corporate, academic and healthcare partners focused on advancing science at the intersection of human health, agriculture and nutrition.  UNC Greensboro’s Center for Translational Biomedical Research focuses on the dietary role of bioactive components in fruits, vegetables, teas and botanical herbs to help people live longer, healthier lives. The UNC Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute is focused on the development of personalized nutrition with specific emphasis on the nutrient choline, infant brain development, obesity, metabolism, epigenetic, neurovascular development, nutrigenetics, pediatric brain development and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. For more information, visit

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