Metabolic syndrome is linked to a mild elevation in liver aminotransferases in diabetic patients with undetectable non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by ultrasound

Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2010 Nov 3;2:65. doi: 10.1186/1758-5996-2-65.


Background: Despite ongoing findings on the relationship between elevated levels of alanine and aspartate aminotransferases (ALT and AST) and metabolic syndrome (MetS), this association in diabetic patients without a known cause for liver enzymes elevation other than diabetes, per se, remains unclear. In this study, we aimed to assess the relationship between circulating liver enzymes and MetS in a relatively large sample of patients with diabetes.

Methods: A total of 670 diabetic patients, without known causes of hepatocellular injury, were enrolled. Patients with ultrasonographic signs of fatty liver disease were not included. Fasting blood samples were obtained and biochemical characteristics were measured. MetS was defined according to the international diabetes federation criteria.

Results: Serum ALT and AST were significantly higher in patients with MetS (p < 0.001). High waist circumference and low HDL-cholesterol were significantly associated with elevated ALT (OR = 2.56 and 2.0, respectively) and AST (OR = 2.23 and 2.21, respectively). ALT and AST were significantly associated with MetS (OR = 2.17 and 2.31, respectively). These associations remained significant after multiple adjustments for age, sex, BMI, diabetes duration, HbA1c and medications. There was a significant (p < 0.01) positive association between the number of the MetS features and the level of ALT or AST.

Conclusion: In diabetic patients without ultrasonographic evidence of fatty liver, elevated aminotransferases are independently associated with MetS. Despite negative ultrasound results in diabetic patients with MetS, the serum level of liver aminotransferases may be elevated and should be more thoroughly monitored.