Changes in alanine aminotransferase in adults with severe and complicated obesity during a milk-based meal replacement programme

Type Article

Journal Article


R. Abdalgwad; M. F. Rafey; C. Murphy; I. Ioana; P. M. O’Shea; E. Slattery; C. Davenport; D. T. O’Keeffe; F. M. Finucane

Year of publication



Nutrition and Metabolism







Introduction: Excess adiposity is associated with fat accumulation within the liver, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is highly prevalent in bariatric patients. Elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) is associated with prevalent NASH. We sought to determine the influence of a milk-based meal replacement weight-loss programme on ALT levels in adults with severe and complicated obesity. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients who completed a 24-week meal replacement programme, comprised of a weight loss phase followed by weight stabilisation and maintenance phases, each 8 weeks long. ALT was quantified using an enzymatic assay with spectrophotometric detection. We examined changes over time in ALT using the non-parametric Wilcoxon singed-rank test and the Friedman test. Results: Of 105 patients, 56 were female, mean age was 51.2 ± 11.2 (range 18.0–71.6) years. There was an unanticipated but transient increase in ALT from 28.0 [20.0, 40.5] iu/L at baseline to 40.0 [26.0, 55.0] iu/L after 2 weeks (p < 0.0005), followed by a gradual reduction to 21.0 [17.0, 28.3] iu/L by 24 weeks (p < 0.0005). The overall reductions in ALT were more pronounced in patients who had elevated levels at baseline. Body weight decreased from 144.2 ± 28.0 kg at baseline to 121.6 ± 25.4 kg at 24 weeks (p < 0.0005) and body mass index (BMI) decreased from 50.7 ± 8.1 kg m−2 at baseline to 43.0 ± 7.6 kg m−2 by 24 weeks (p < 0.0005). Conclusion: In adults with severe and complicated obesity undergoing a milk-based meal replacement programme, there was an initial unanticipated rise in ALT in the first 2 weeks, followed by a gradual overall reduction by 24 weeks. These findings suggest that rapid weight loss secondary to significant caloric restriction might induce a transient deterioration in hepatic steatosis prior to an ultimate overall improvement.