Purpose of review: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an increasingly common condition, which is strongly associated with obesity and diabetes. The risk of cardiovascular disease is increased in NAFLD and represents the main cause of death in these patients. However, given the shared features between NAFLD, the metabolic syndrome and traditional cardiovascular risk factors, uncertainty exists as to whether NAFLD is an independent risk factor for increased cardiovascular disease.
Recent findings: Multiple epidemiological and case-control studies now demonstrate that NAFLD is associated with increased vascular risk, independently of conventional cardiometabolic risk factors. Evidence also suggests a graded association between NAFLD severity and increased vascular risk. However, given the heterogeneous disease spectrum of NAFLD, these findings have limitations with respect to accuracy of diagnosis and staging of NAFLD in most studies.
Summary: Although accumulating evidence points to NAFLD emerging as a novel cardiovascular risk factor, more research is needed to find suitable noninvasive biomarkers of NAFLD severity to allow better risk-stratification based on cardiovascular outcomes. Furthermore, with no established pharmacological treatment option for NAFLD currently available, any potential treatment must show efficacy not only in slowing liver disease progression, but also in ameliorating adverse cardiovascular outcomes.