Background/aims: The natural history of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) remains to be defined. We conducted a study to determine the overall and liver-related mortality of NAFLD in the general US population.
Methods: In this study, the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) and NHANES III-Linked Mortality File were used. Adjusted hazard ratios (HR) for overall and liver-related mortality were calculated for NAFLD using persons without liver disease as reference. Causes of death were determined.
Results: After a median follow-up of 8.7 years, 80 persons with NAFLD and 1453 without liver disease died. Older age, male gender, non-Hispanic white race, lower educational level, lower income, higher BMI, presence of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, or metabolic syndrome were significantly (p<0.05) associated with overall mortality. Persons with NAFLD had higher overall mortality [HR 1.038 (95% CI 1.036-1.041), P<0.0001] and liver-related mortality [HR 9.32 (95% CI 9.21-9.43), P<0.0001]. Liver disease was the third leading cause of death among persons with NAFLD after cardiovascular disease and malignancy.
Conclusions: NAFLD is associated with higher overall and liver-related mortality in the general US population. Liver disease is a significant cause of death among persons with NAFLD.