Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: from pathogenesis to patient care

Nat Clin Pract Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Jun;3(6):458-69. doi: 10.1038/ncpendmet0505.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver disease in Western countries. It encompasses a wide spectrum of liver lesions, from pure steatosis to end-stage liver disease with cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis corresponds only to one stage of NAFLD. As NAFLD can be considered a liver manifestation of the metabolic syndrome, its prevalence is high in obese people and in patients who have type 2 diabetes-insulin resistance is one of the key elements of the pathogenesis of NAFLD. This disease is often asymptomatic in the absence of decompensated cirrhosis, but should be suspected in patients with elevated aminotransferase levels or radiological evidence of a fatty liver or hepatomegaly. Liver fibrosis is associated with age over 50 years, obesity, diabetes and high triglyceride levels. Liver biopsy is the only way to assess the histologic features of necrotic inflammation and fibrosis that define nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and to determine its probable prognosis. The prognosis is good for pure steatosis, whereas the presence of necrotic inflammation is associated with a significant risk of progression to cirrhosis and, possibly, hepatocellular carcinoma. Lifestyle changes, such as dietary modifications and exercise, are recommended. To date, there have been very few randomized, placebo-controlled trials of drug treatments for NAFLD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Fatty Liver / etiology*
  • Fatty Liver / physiopathology
  • Fatty Liver / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / therapy
  • Patient Care / methods*