Milk thistle meta-analysis

I have often seen milk thistle (silymarin) touted as a shining star among natural remedies for hepatoprotective benefits. And although still controversial, it is intriguing to learn of its antiperoxidative effects in achieving small increases in glutathione levels (1).

No doubt that a 2008 meta-analysis from Switzerland on silymarin will pique your interest further. After reviewing the only 19 available “double-blind” and “single-blind” studies, no evidence was found to help with viral hepatitis, but in liver cirrhosis sylimarin was able to reduce aspartate aminotransferase, although not alkaline phosphatase (2)–this means it may help protect hepatocytes (liver cells).

The meta-analysis concluded that not enough clinical evidence existed for proper recommendation (2). But risk/benefit analysis would suggest it’s reasonable to use sylimarin as a therapy for poisoning and may have minor benefit in liver cirrhosis (2).

References

1. Lucena MI, Andrade RJ, de la Cruz JP, Rodriguez-Mendizabal M, Blanco E, S√°nchez de la Cuesta F. Effects of silymarin MZ-80 on oxidative stress in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis. Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Jan;40(1):2-8.
2. Saller R, Brignoli R, Melzer J, Meier R..An updated systematic review with meta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarin. Forsch Komplementmed. 2008 Feb;15(1):9-20.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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