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Purpose of review: To point new insights in the cholestasis that is a complication of both intestinal failure and parenteral nutrition. View on liver disease has recently evolved with the onset of fish oil-based intravenous lipid emulsions (ILE).

Recent findings: Focused on the role of ILE in causing liver disease. Reversal of cholestasis was recently achieved in infants with short bowel syndrome, by replacing the 'reference' soybean oil-based ILE by fish oil-based ILE.

Summary: It is likely that this reversal involves several factors such as the change in n-6: n-3 ratio, the reduction in phytosterol load, the increased provision of [alpha]-tocopherol as antioxidant agent. Alternative issue might be based on the use of a new generation of ILE aiming to provide n-3 and to reduce n-6 fatty acids load while enhancing [alpha]-tocopherol intake. New data are based on the use of an ILE containing a balanced proportion of four types of oil as a physical mixture of 30% soybean oil, 30% medium-chain triglycerides, 25% olive oil and 15% fish oil with amounts of [alpha]-tocopherol calculated according to the number of double bonds. This new emulsion was reported to be beneficial in reversing or preventing liver disease.

(C) 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.