The potential role of prebiotic fibre for treatment and management of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and associated obesity and insulin resistance

Liver Int. 2012 May;32(5):701-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1478-3231.2011.02730.x. Epub 2011 Dec 30.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Liver / complications
  • Fatty Liver / diet therapy*
  • Fatty Liver / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Mice
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / microbiology
  • Prebiotics*
  • Rats


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Prebiotics