Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and the more severe non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) represent a spectrum of diseases involving hepatic fat accumulation and histological features essentially identical to alcoholic liver disease; however, they occur in the absence of excessive alcohol intake. They typically arise in conjunction with one or more features of the metabolic syndrome. Lifestyle mediated weight loss remains the primary mode of therapy for NAFLD and NASH, but this is often ineffective and adjunctive medical and surgical treatments are presently lacking. Prebiotic fibres are a group of non-digestible carbohydrates that modulate the human microbiota in a manner that is advantageous to host health. Rodent studies suggest that dietary supplementation with prebiotic fibres positively impacts NAFLD by modifying the gut microbiota, reducing body fat, and improving glucoregulation. Future research should focus on placebo-controlled, human, clinical trials using histological endpoints to address the effects of prebiotics on NAFLD and NASH. The aim of this review is to summarize current knowledge about prebiotics as an emerging therapeutic target for NAFLD.
© 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S.