Increasing growth hormone levels may improve liver health in patients with NAFLD

Growth hormone improves liver health in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) by reducing liver fat and inflammation, according to a new study presented Tuesday, June 14 at ENDO 2022, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Atlanta, Ga.

Two risk factors for NAFLD, obesity and diabetes, are becoming increasingly common. We currently have no FDA-approved treatment for NAFLD, and weight loss is the only effective treatment. Understanding how growth hormone improves liver fat and inflammation in people with NAFLD could lead to the development of new targeted treatments.”


Laura Dichtel, MD, MHS, LPrincipal Investigator, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass

NAFLD is present in 25% of people worldwide and up to 80% of obese people in the United States. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the progressive form of NAFLD. NASH is characterized by liver inflammation and liver cell damage and is often accompanied by liver fibrosis. NASH with severe fibrosis can lead to cirrhosis or liver failure. NASH-cirrhosis is one of the leading causes of liver transplantation in the United States.

The researchers chose to study growth hormone in NAFLD because administration of growth hormone is known to reduce body fat and inflammation. “We know that higher body weight is associated with relatively lower levels of growth hormone and higher rates of NAFLD and NASH,” Dichtel said. “We wanted to find out whether administration of growth hormone to otherwise healthy adults with overweight/obesity and NAFLD would improve liver fat, inflammation, and fibrosis.”

Researchers studied 41 participants who received either growth hormone or a placebo for 6 months in a randomized, double-blind study. They found improvement in liver fat and a combined measure of liver inflammation and fibrosis, both measured by MRI, in the growth hormone group compared to the placebo group. Liver function tests and markers of inflammation also improved. Growth hormone was well tolerated and there were no safety issues.

“This research brings us closer to understanding the impact of our own hormones on NAFLD,” Dichtel said. “These results are very exciting, as they show that increasing the body’s level of growth hormone can improve liver health in patients with NAFLD.”

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