The trial has shown that a three-month rapid weight loss programme was not only safe but also effective in reducing the severity of a liver disease called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) with liver fibrosis.
Results of the trial, which showed that improvements were maintained beyond the end of the diet, have been published in the journal Obesity.
Typically, in this advanced type of liver disease, there is inflammation and scarring in the liver caused by a build-up of fat. NASH with liver fibrosis, which is estimated to affect up to two percent of adults worldwide, can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Currently, no medication has been approved for this condition, so advice to lose weight is the mainstay of treatment. In most cases, however, this leads to only modest weight loss.
Rapid weight loss programmes through ‘soups and shakes’ have been shown to be effective for treating obesity and type 2 diabetes. However, they are not routinely used in people with NASH with liver fibrosis because of safety concerns.
In the trial by a team from the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), 16 people with obesity, NASH and moderate to advanced liver fibrosis took part in a weight loss programme; they replaced all their regular food with specially formulated and nutritious soups, shakes and bars for 12 weeks.