BACKGROUND AND AIMS
A deranged metabolic status and alcohol intake may trigger induction and progression of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) liver disease. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether dietary composition affects the severity of liver damage and response to therapy in patients with HCV-related chronic hepatitis.
We enrolled 1,084 patients with biopsy-proven HCV-related chronic hepatitis (432 treated with interferon plus ribavirin) and 2,326 healthy subjects in this prospective study conducted in a university hospital. Dietary habits were recorded in enrolled individuals, and their alcohol consumption was evaluated with a questionnaire (AUDIT). Body mass index, and plasma levels of blood glucose, nitrogen, creatinine, cholesterol, and triglycerides were also measured. All individuals underwent routine liver tests and HCV genotyping.
At study onset, there were no differences in metabolic status or alcohol consumption between patients and controls. About 50% of each group was overweight, and about 60% consumed alcohol. Patients and controls had similar dietary habits. Intake of carbohydrates, lipids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and alcohol consumption were independent factors of liver damage at histology (logistic regression analysis). Some dietary components (unsaturated fatty acids, iron, zinc, vitamin A, and niacin) and alcohol intake differed significantly (P < 0.05 and P 0.01, respectively; univariate analysis) between responders and nonresponders to interferon therapy. Genotype, age, body mass index, steatosis, and fibrosis were independent predictors of therapy outcome (P < 0.02; multivariate analysis).
The severity of HCV-related chronic hepatitis depends on a variety of factors. Our results show that dietary composition is related to the extent of liver damage. Although traditional risk factors independently affected treatment response, some dietary components were associated with nonresponse to therapy in our patients. This suggests that HCV patients may benefit from instructions regarding their diet.