The PIVENS (Pioglitazone versus Vitamin E versus Placebo for the Treatment of Nondiabetic Patients with Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis [NASH]) trial demonstrated that pioglitazone and vitamin E improved liver histology to varying degrees, but the mechanisms are unknown. We conducted a study to examine the changes in adipose tissue insulin resistance (Adipo-IR) during the PIVENS trial and its relationship to histological endpoints. Adipo-IR (fasting nonesterified fatty acids [NEFAs] × fasting insulin) was calculated at baseline and after 16 and 96 weeks of therapy. Compared to placebo, the baseline Adipo-IR was not different in either the vitamin E group (P = 0.34) or the pioglitazone group (P = 0.29). Baseline Adipo-IR was significantly associated with fibrosis score (P = 0.02), but not with other histological features or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) activity score (NAS). After 16 weeks, compared to placebo, the pioglitazone group had a significant reduction in Adipo-IR (-15.7 versus -1.91; P = 0.02), but this effect did not persist at 96 weeks (-3.25 versus -4.28; P = 0.31). Compared to placebo, Adipo-IR in the vitamin E group did not change significantly either after 16 weeks (P = 0.70) or after 96 weeks (P = 0.85). Change in Adipo-IR at week 16 was not associated with changes in any histological parameters at week 96, but improvement in Adipo-IR at week 96 was significantly associated with improvement in ballooning (P = 0.03), fibrosis (P = 0.004), and NAS (P = 0.01). Conclusion: Vitamin E improved liver histology independent of changes in Adipo-IR, and pioglitazone treatment acutely improved Adipo-IR, but this was not sustained. Changes in Adipo-IR were associated with changes in liver histology, including fibrosis.
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