Results of high-quality randomized clinical trials have determined that milk thistle extract, a widely used alternative medication, may not have any significant influence on the course of patients with alcoholic liver disease or hepatitis B or C liver disease. These findings are published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.
According to the previous studies, milk thistle extracts have been shown to possess properties that protect against various hepatotoxins, including the prevention of lipid perioxidation, which is frequent in all stages of liver damage in alcoholic and non-alcoholic liver disease.
"The ironic fact is," notes Christian Gluud of the Copenhagen Trial Unit, Center for Clinical Intervention Research at the Copenhagen University Hospital, "that even though milk thistle and milk thistle extracts have been widely examined, we are still not in a situation where we can exclude a potential beneficial or harmful effect."
In this study, researchers aimed to determine the exact benefits or harm in using milk thistle to treat affected patients. Over 900 patients with the aforementioned types of liver disease were studied in these trials over a period of six months, in groups treated with milk thistle versus placebo treatment. No significant effects were observed on mortality or complication of the disease. Further, milk thistle was not associated with any significant risk of adverse events.
"It would be logical to stop the use of milk thistle products, not to reimburse any use, to stop the information that milk thistle products may be used, and to support further trials," adds Gluud.
This article is published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Christian Gluud, MD, Dr. Med. Sci., is a specialist in hepatology, gastroenterology, and internal medicine. He has written more than 300 peer-reviewed journal articles, most of them dealing with interventions for patients with liver diseases.
About The American Journal of Gastroenterology
The American Journal of Gastroenterology, the official publication of the American College of Gastroenterology, is THE clinical journal for all practicing gastroenterologists, hepatologists and GI endoscopists. With an impact factor of 4.716, it is the authoritative clinical source in the field of gastroenterology. With a broad-based, rigorous, interdisciplinary approach, the journal presents the latest important information in the field of gastroenterology including original manuscripts, meta-analyses and reviews, health economic papers, debates and consensus statements of clinical relevance in gastroenterology. The reports will highlight new observations and original research, results with innovative treatments and all other topics relevant to clinical gastroenterology. Case reports highlighting disease mechanisms or particularly important clinical observations and letters on articles published in the Journal are included.
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