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Patients with Chronic Hepatitis C Infection Have Low Antioxidant Levels

BACKGROUND: Chronic hepatitis C is typically a long-term low-grade infection that can lead to liver inflammation, tissue scarring, and impaired liver function. The use of antioxidants in patients with hepatitis C has garnered mixed opinions recently. While some studies show no benefit of antioxidant supplementation, others have shown that patients with hepatitis C respond favorably to antioxidant supplementation.

RESEARCH: Researchers compared serum and liver levels of certain antioxidants (retinol, alpha- and gamma-tocopherol, lutein, beta- cryptoxanthin, lycopene, and alpha- and beta- carotene) and malondialdehyde (MDA), a marker of free radical activity, in 20 untreated hepatitis C patients and 22 healthy subjects, with no history of vitamin supplementation.

RESULTS: Blood levels of all measured antioxidants, except lutein, were lower in patients with hepatitis C infections. Lutein levels did not appear to be affected by hepatitis C infection. Serum levels of MDA were significantly higher in hepatitis C patients compared to healthy controls. Liver levels of alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein correlated with serum levels; however, there was no correlation between liver and serum levels for the other antioxidants. Liver levels of all the antioxidants, with the exception of alpha-carotene, were decreased in patients with moderate-to- severe fibrosis. Increased oxidative stress with increasing severity of disease was also observed from evaluation of the liver samples.

IMPLICATIONS: This study demonstrates that patients with chronic hepatitis C have increased oxidative stress, accompanied by a decrease in serum and liver antioxidant levels which may affect the progression of the disease.

Yadav D, Hertan HI, Schweitzer P, et al, "Serum and liver micronutrient antioxidants and serum oxidative stress in patients with chronic hepatitis C," American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2002;97:2634-2639.

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