Ian Miles, previously a blood donor for more than 25 years, learned he had fatty liver disease after he put himself forward as a healthy volunteer for a University of Oxford Ebola vaccine trial.
He then agreed to take part in an NHS trial for treatment of a type of non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFLD) – where fat builds up in the liver – which enabled him to shed two-and-a-half stone, a sixth of his previous body weight.
Researchers suggested the Abingdon, Oxfordshire resident be tested for liver disease as a result of a routine blood sample given during the Ebola trial screening at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital. An ultrasound and MRI scan through routine NHS care confirmed the disease.
Mr Miles said he was “quite surprised” to be diagnosed with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a type of NAFLD, in which the liver is inflamed. It's usually seen in people who are overweight or obese and could affect up to 30 percent of the population, often without any obvious symptoms.
After diagnosis, he agreed to take part in an NIHR-supported trial into the condition, which is investigating the effectiveness of weight loss using the drug Liraglutide compared to through lifestyle changes such as diet and activity.
Through dietary changes, the freelance tutor and musician dropped from 15 stone and a quarter to 12 stone and three quarters, with support from a weight loss programme, paid for as part of the trial. He has since chosen to continue attending the programme and successfully maintained his new weight.
In three months his Body Mass Index (BMI) had dropped by four points, his waistline by as many inches, and his three-month scan confirmed that his liver fat had been greatly reduced.
He said: “Had you told me six months ago that I would be going to a slimming class, then I would have laughed — but it was a no-brainer.
“It’s entailed a managed, but feasible and hardly punitive diet. In essence you can still eat and drink many things, while others you need to be more wary of.
“One might regard nuts as modest and healthy, for instance; but since they’re stuffed with rich oils and nutrients to do their original botanical job – to all intents those are off the list, alas. And our breadmaker is sadly gathering dust.
“You’re allowed protein, most fruits and vegetables, fair quantities of roughage and minimal dairy produce for balance.
“Occasional or modest helpings of other things remain OK provided one keeps aware: such as my half-pint of local keg ale still, more evenings than not. But fat, and carbs, off the menu does indeed seem to translate into fat off the midriff.”
Mr Miles said of taking part in research: “Apart from the weight of course, you really have nothing to lose. It’s a way of contributing more or less anonymously to something for the public benefit, while potentially gaining some individual benefit out of it as well.”