Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the metabolic syndrome and the risk of cardiovascular disease: the plot thickens

Diabet Med. 2007 Jan;24(1):1-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2007.02025.x.


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affects a substantial proportion of the general population and is frequently associated with many features of the metabolic syndrome (MetS). Currently, the importance of NAFLD and its relationship with the MetS is being increasingly recognized, and this has stimulated an interest in the possible role of NAFLD in the development of atherosclerosis. Recent studies have reported the association of NAFLD with multiple classical and non-classical risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Moreover, there is a strong association between the severity of liver histopathology in NAFLD patients and greater carotid artery intima-media thickness and plaque, and lower endothelial flow-mediated vasodilation (as markers of subclinical atherosclerosis) independent of obesity and other MetS components. Finally, it has recently been demonstrated that NAFLD is associated with an increased risk of all-cause death and predicts future CVD events independently of other prognostic factors, including MetS components. Overall, therefore, the evidence from these recent studies strongly emphasizes the importance of assessing the global CVD risk in patients with NAFLD. Moreover, these novel findings suggest a more complex picture and raise the possibility that NAFLD, as a component of the MetS, might not only be a marker but also an early mediator of CVD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atherosclerosis / etiology*
  • Fatty Liver / complications*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications*
  • Risk Factors