Although non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), characterised by the accumulation of triacylglycerol in the liver, is the most common liver disorder, the causes of its development and progression to the more serious non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) remain incompletely understood. Oxidative stress has been implicated as a key factor in both these processes, and mitochondrial dysfunction and inflammation are also believed to play a part. Coenzyme Q (CoQ) is a powerful antioxidant found in all cell membranes which has an essential role in mitochondrial respiration and also has anti-inflammatory properties. NAFLD has been shown to be associated with disturbances in plasma and liver CoQ concentrations, but the relationship between these changes and disease development and progression is not yet clear. Dietary supplementation with CoQ has been found to be hepatoprotective and to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation as well as improving mitochondrial dysfunction, suggesting that it may be beneficial in NAFLD. However, studies using animal models or patients with NAFLD have given inconclusive results. Overall, evidence is now emerging to indicate that disturbances in CoQ metabolism are involved in NAFLD development and progression to NASH, and this highlights the need for further studies with human subjects to fully clarify its role.
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