Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Ann Epidemiol. 2007 Nov;17(11):863-9. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2007.05.013. Epub 2007 Aug 28.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) refers to the presence of hepatic steatosis not associated with a significant intake of ethanol. Insulin resistance is central to the pathogenesis of NAFLD; thus obesity, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome are frequently associated with the disease. Consequently, as these metabolic conditions emerge as major health problems in Western society, it is now recognized that NAFLD is the most common chronic liver condition in the Western world. NAFLD is generally asymptomatic, although a minority of patients may present with evidence of progressive liver injury with complications of cirrhosis, liver failure, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Despite being common and potentially serious, relatively little is known about the natural history or prognostic significance of NAFLD. Although diabetes, obesity, and age are recognized risk factors for advanced liver disease, other significant factors leading to progressive liver injury remain to be identified. The treatment of NAFLD focuses upon modifying metabolic risk factors. Insulin-sensitizing and hepatoprotective drugs have been subjected to study trials, but as yet, no agent has conclusively been demonstrated to prevent disease progression. Management is further complicated by the inability to predict which patients will develop liver-related morbidity and thus benefit from treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Complications / metabolism*
  • Fatty Liver* / epidemiology
  • Fatty Liver* / etiology
  • Fatty Liver* / physiopathology
  • Fatty Liver* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology