How common is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in the Asia-Pacific region and are there local differences?

J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2007 Jun;22(6):788-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1746.2007.05042.x.


Risk factors for development of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis include obesity, especially central adiposity, glucose intolerance or type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), and dyslipidemia. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is now considered a manifestation of metabolic syndrome. During the last two decades, NAFLD has become the most common chronic liver disease in North America and Europe, but until recently was thought to be uncommon (perhaps due to the lack of study) in Asia. Fatty liver can be identified on imaging modalities (ultrasonography, computed tomography scans, and magnetic resonance imaging) with high sensitivity, but steatohepatitis and fibrosis cannot be distinguished. Thus, an inherent drawback in studying the epidemiology of NAFLD is the lack of definitive laboratory tests, no uniform definition-with different studies using cut-off values of alcohol consumption from <20 g/week to 210 g/week, and case selections where biopsy was used for definition. In studies outside the region, the prevalence of NAFLD varies from 16% to 42% by imaging, and 15-39% of liver biopsies. The major risk factors for NAFLD, central obesity, T2DM, dyslipidemia, and metabolic syndrome, are now widely prevalent and are increasing geometrically in the Asia-Pacific region. It is therefore not surprising that NAFLD is common in this region. Estimates of current prevalence range from 5% to 30%, depending on the population studied. Central obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome are the major risk factors. To date, however, data on the natural history and impact of NAFLD causing serious significant chronic liver disease are lacking and there is a need for prospective, cooperative studies.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Fatty Liver / diagnosis
  • Fatty Liver / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pacific Islands / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors