NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) and NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis) are of increasing importance, both in connection with insulin resistance and with the development of liver cirrhosis. Histological samples are still the 'gold standard' for diagnosis; however, because of the risks of a liver biopsy, non-invasive methods are needed. MAS (magic angle spinning) is a special type of NMR which allows characterization of intact excised tissue without need for additional extraction steps. Because clinical MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and MRS (magnetic resonance spectroscopy) are based on the same physical principle as NMR, translational research is feasible from excised tissue to non-invasive examinations in humans. In the present issue of Clinical Science, Cobbold and co-workers report a study in three animal strains suffering from different degrees of NAFLD showing that MAS results are able to distinguish controls, fatty infiltration and steatohepatitis in cohorts. In vivo MRS methods in humans are not obtainable at the same spectral resolution; however, know-how from MAS studies may help to identify characteristic changes in crowded regions of the magnetic resonance spectrum.