The results of this study appear in the June 2006 issue of Hepatology, the official journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hepatology is available online via Wiley InterScience at www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/hepatology.
HCV is one of the leading causes of chronic liver disease worldwide, affecting 3 percent of the world's population. In the U.S. alone 4.1 million people have been infected with HCV, and up to 85 percent of those are chronic carriers of the virus. Up to 70 percent of chronic carriers will go on to develop some other form of chronic liver disease, from mild liver enzyme abnormalities to cirrhosis and liver cancer. While there is no vaccine for HCV, the current optimal treatment is combination therapy with peginterferon alfa (an immune stimulant) and ribavirin (an inhibitor of viral replication). However, this will cure only 55 percent of patients. One of the risk factors for treatment failure is obesity.
Obesity itself is linked to the disruption of hormone signaling pathways that affect cell function and to abnormal levels of circulating proteins and sugars. In other words, obesity is associated with a wide range of metabolic changes that affect multiple cellular and organ functions. This biochemical disregulation is linked to serious chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.