Ethnicity and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Hepatology. 2012 Mar;55(3):769-80. doi: 10.1002/hep.24726.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver disorder in the United States; however, few data are available about racial and ethnic variation. We investigated relationships between ethnicity, NAFLD severity, metabolic derangements, and sociodemographic characteristics in a well-characterized cohort of adults with biopsy-proven NAFLD. Data were analyzed from 1,026 adults (≥18 years) in the Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Clinical Research Network (NASH CRN) from 2004 to 2008, for whom liver histology data were available within 6 months of enrollment. Associations between ethnicity (i.e., Latino versus non-Latino white) and NAFLD severity (i.e., NASH versus non-NASH histology and mild versus advanced fibrosis) were explored with multiple logistic regression analysis. We also investigated effect modification of ethnicity on metabolic derangements for NAFLD severity. Within the NASH CRN, 77% (N = 785) were non-Latino white and 12% (N = 118) were Latino. Sixty-one percent (N = 628) had NASH histology and 28% (N = 291) had advanced fibrosis. Latinos with NASH were younger, performed less physical activity, and had higher carbohydrate intake, compared to non-Latino whites with NASH. Gender, diabetes, hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), platelets, and the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) were significantly associated with NASH. Age, gender, AST, alanine aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, platelets, total cholesterol, hypertension, and HOMA-IR, but not ethnicity, were significantly associated with advanced fibrosis. The effect of HOMA-IR on the risk of NASH was modified by ethnicity: HOMA-IR was not a significant risk factor for NASH among Latinos (odds ratio [OR] = 0.93; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.85-1.02), but was significant among non-Latino whites (OR, 1.06; 95% CI: 1.01-1.11).

Conclusion: Metabolic risk factors and sociodemographic characteristics associated with NASH differ by ethnicity. Additional insights into NASH pathogenesis may come from further studies focused on understanding ethnic differences in this disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Fatty Liver / epidemiology*
  • Fatty Liver / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / epidemiology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / ethnology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Whites*