File(s) under embargo

Reason: 12 month publisher embargo





until file(s) become available

Nutritional supplementation for nonalcohol-related fatty liver disease: a network meta-analysis (Review)

journal contribution
posted on 02.09.2021, 11:02 by Oluyemi Komolafe, Elena Buzzetti, Audrey Linden, Lawrence Mj Best, Angela M Madden, Danielle Roberts, Thomas Jg Chase, Dominic Fritche, Suzanne C Freeman, Nicola J Cooper, Alex J Sutton, Elisabeth Jane Milne, Kathy Wright, Chavdar S Pavlov, Brian R Davidson, Emmanuel Tsochatzis, Kurinchi Selvan Gurusamy
The prevalence of non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease (NAFLD) varies between 19% and 33% in different populations. NAFLD decreases life expectancy and increases risks of liver cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and the requirement for liver transplantation. Uncertainty surrounds relative benefits and harms of various nutritional supplements in NAFLD. Currently no nutritional supplement is recommended for people with NAFLD.
• To assess the benefits and harms of different nutritional supplements for treatment of NAFLD through a network meta-analysis
• To generate rankings of different nutritional supplements according to their safety and efficacy Search methods
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, Embase, Science Citation Index Expanded, Conference Proceedings Citation Index-Science, the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, and trials registers until February 2021 to identify randomised clinical trials in people with NAFLD.
Selection criteria
We included only randomised clinical trials (irrespective of language, blinding, or status) for people with NAFLD, irrespective of method of diagnosis, age and diabetic status of participants, or presence of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). We excluded randomised clinical trials in which participants had previously undergone liver transplantation.
Data collection and analysis
We performed a network meta‐analysis with OpenBUGS using Bayesian methods whenever possible and calculated differences in treatments using hazard ratios (HRs), odds ratios (ORs), and rate ratios with 95% credible intervals (CrIs) based on an available‐case analysis, according to National Institute of Health and Care Excellence Decision Support Unit guidance.

Main results
We included in the review a total of 202 randomised clinical trials (14,200 participants). Nineteen trials were at low risk of bias. A total of 32 different interventions were compared in these trials. A total of 115 trials (7732 participants) were included in one or more comparisons. The remaining trials did not report any of the outcomes of interest for this review.

Follow‐up ranged from 1 month to 28 months. The follow‐up period in trials that reported clinical outcomes was 2 months to 28 months. During this follow‐up period, clinical events related to NAFLD such as mortality, liver cirrhosis, liver decompensation, liver transplantation, hepatocellular carcinoma, and liver‐related mortality were sparse.

We did not calculate effect estimates for mortality because of sparse data (zero events for at least one of the groups in the trial). None of the trials reported that they measured overall health‐related quality of life using a validated scale. The evidence is very uncertain about effects of interventions on serious adverse events (number of people or number of events).

We are very uncertain about effects on adverse events of most of the supplements that we investigated, as the evidence is of very low certainty. However, people taking PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acid) may be more likely to experience an adverse event than those not receiving an active intervention (network meta‐analysis results: OR 4.44, 95% CrI 2.40 to 8.48; low‐certainty evidence; 4 trials, 203 participants; direct evidence: OR 4.43, 95% CrI 2.43 to 8.42). People who take other supplements (a category that includes nutritional supplements other than vitamins, fatty acids, phospholipids, and antioxidants) had higher numbers of adverse events than those not receiving an active intervention (network meta‐analysis: rate ratio 1.73, 95% CrI 1.26 to 2.41; 6 trials, 291 participants; direct evidence: rate ratio 1.72, 95% CrI 1.25 to 2.40; low‐certainty evidence).

Data were sparse (zero events in all groups in the trial) for liver transplantation, liver decompensation, and hepatocellular carcinoma. So, we did not perform formal analysis for these outcomes. The evidence is very uncertain about effects of other antioxidants (antioxidants other than vitamins) compared to no active intervention on liver cirrhosis (HR 1.68, 95% CrI 0.23 to 15.10; 1 trial, 99 participants; very low‐certainty evidence).

The evidence is very uncertain about effects of interventions in any of the remaining comparisons, or data were sparse (with zero events in at least one of the groups), precluding formal calculations of effect estimates.

Data were probably because of the very short follow‐up period (2 months to 28 months). It takes follow‐up of 8 to 28 years to detect differences in mortality between people with NAFLD and the general population. Therefore, it is unlikely that differences in clinical outcomes are noted in trials providing less than 5 to 10 years of follow‐up.

Authors' conclusions
The evidence indicates considerable uncertainty about effects of nutritional supplementation compared to no additional intervention on all clinical outcomes for people with non‐alcohol‐related fatty liver disease.

Accordingly, high‐quality randomised comparative clinical trials with adequate follow‐up are needed. We propose registry‐based randomised clinical trials or cohort multiple randomised clinical trials (study design in which multiple interventions are trialed within large longitudinal cohorts of patients to gain efficiencies and align trials more closely to standard clinical practice) comparing interventions such as vitamin E, prebiotics/probiotics/synbiotics, PUFAs, and no nutritional supplementation. The reason for the choice of interventions is the impact of these interventions on indirect outcomes, which may translate to clinical benefit. Outcomes in such trials should be mortality, health‐related quality of life, decompensated liver cirrhosis, liver transplantation, and resource utilisation measures including costs of intervention and decreased healthcare utilisation after minimum follow‐up of 8 years (to find meaningful differences in clinically important outcomes).



Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2021, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD013157. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD013157.pub2.

Author affiliation

Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester


VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

The Cochrane database of systematic reviews













Copyright date


Available date


Spatial coverage




Usage metrics