Role of Probiotics in Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Does Gut Microbiota Matter?
Plain language summary
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterised by an excessive accumulation of fat in the liver tissue, without excessive alcohol consumption, and appears to be related to metabolic syndrome. It is thought to have a prevalence of 25% globally and there are no pharmacological treatments available. This review discusses the connection between the gut microbiota (GM) and NAFLD. Various mechanisms by which the GM may be involved in the development of NAFLD are discussed. As probiotics and prebiotics can normalise GM and reverse dysbiosis their use may benefit patients with NAFLD. This has been confirmed in animal models. The authors review 26 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of probiotics and/or prebiotics in the treatment of NAFLD which evaluate biochemical markers, as well as five meta-analyses, and found that overall there is strong evidence that probiotics and/or prebiotics can lower ALT and AST (markers of NAFLD), although results for other biochemical markers were mixed. They also reviewed RCTs assessing NAFLD by imaging and histological means, and again found benefits from probiotic and/or prebiotic supplementation.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the hepatic consequence of metabolic syndrome, which often also includes obesity, diabetes, and dyslipidemia. The connection between gut microbiota (GM) and NAFLD has attracted significant attention in recent years. Data has shown that GM affects hepatic lipid metabolism and influences the balance between pro/anti-inflammatory effectors in the liver. Although studies reveal the association between GM dysbiosis and NAFLD, decoding the mechanisms of gut dysbiosis resulting in NAFLD remains challenging. The potential pathophysiology that links GM dysbiosis to NAFLD can be summarized as: (1) disrupting the balance between energy harvest and expenditure, (2) promoting hepatic inflammation (impairing intestinal integrity, facilitating endotoxemia, and initiating inflammatory cascades with cytokines releasing), and (3) altered biochemistry metabolism and GM-related metabolites (i.e., bile acid, short-chain fatty acids, aromatic amino acid derivatives, branched-chain amino acids, choline, ethanol). Due to the hypothesis that probiotics/synbiotics could normalize GM and reverse dysbiosis, there have been efforts to investigate the therapeutic effect of probiotics/synbiotics in patients with NAFLD. Recent randomized clinical trials suggest that probiotics/synbiotics could improve transaminases, hepatic steatosis, and reduce hepatic inflammation. Despite these promising results, future studies are necessary to understand the full role GM plays in NAFLD development and progression. Additionally, further data is needed to unravel probiotics/synbiotics efficacy, safety, and sustainability as a novel pharmacologic approaches to NAFLD.