Published online Mar 27, 2015. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v7.i3.559
Peer-review started: August 29, 2014
First decision: October 14, 2014
Revised: October 30, 2014
Accepted: December 16, 2014
Article in press: December 16, 2014
Published online: March 27, 2015
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is currently recognized as one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease. It involves a spectrum of conditions that include pure steatosis without inflammation, steatohepatitis, fibrosis and cirrhosis. The key factor in the pathophysiology of NAFLD is insulin resistance that determines lipid accumulation in the hepatocytes and, thus, oxidative stress, which is followed by inflammatory response. However, NAFLD pathogenesis is still largely unknown and has been extensively investigated. Although life style modification with the aim of losing weight has been advocated to treat this disorder, its effectiveness is limited; additionally, there is no specific pharmacologic treatment until nowadays. Recent evidence suggests that the gut microbiota may play a role in the development of insulin resistance, hepatic steatosis, necroinflammation and fibrosis. Differences in gut microbiota between NAFLD patients and lean individuals as well as presence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in NAFLD subjects have been demonstrated. Furthermore, some data indicate that the immunoregulatory effects of probiotics may be beneficial in NAFLD treatment as they modulate the intestinal microbiota; improve epithelial barrier function and strengthen the intestinal wall decreasing its permeability; reduce bacterial translocation and endotoxemia; improve intestinal inflammation; and reduce oxidative and inflammatory liver damage. In this article, we review the clinical trials on the use of probiotics in the treatment of NAFLD and discuss the effects of these agents and their efficacy as an emerging therapeutic resource to treat NAFLD patients.
Core tip: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an important cause of chronic liver disease. Its pathogenesis is largely unknown, and until nowadays there is no effective treatment for this disorder. Recent evidence from animal and human studies suggests that gut microbiota may play a role in the development of NAFLD. Furthermore, some data indicate that probiotics may be beneficial in NAFLD treatment. In this context, we conducted a systematic review on the use of probiotics in the treatment of NAFLD and discuss the effects of these agents and their efficacy as an emerging therapeutic resource to treat NAFLD patients.