Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a diabetologist's perspective

Endocrine. 2014 Apr;45(3):344-53. doi: 10.1007/s12020-013-0087-8. Epub 2013 Nov 28.


In the recent years, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has emerged as the commonest cause of chronic liver disease in the developed world. The global epidemic of obesity secondary to physical inactivity and adverse food habits accounts for the alarming rise in NAFLD. Metabolic syndrome plays a major role in the pathogenesis of both NAFLD and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Whilst most cases of NAFLD remain asymptomatic with only hepatic steatosis, about 30 % progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis with chronic liver inflammation that can lead on to fibrosis, cirrhosis, liver failure, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Because of the similar pathogenesis shared between T2DM and NAFLD, T2DM occurs as an important complication in many cases of NAFLD, and many cases of T2DM are further complicated by NAFLD. Rapid progression and increased complications of the individual diseases is the end result of this dual coexistence. Diagnosis of NAFLD relies upon hepatic imaging, serum biochemical markers, and liver biopsy. As in T2DM, the most important management option for patients with NAFLD is lifestyle changes targeted at weight reduction. Other treatment options include insulin sensitizers (metformin and pioglitazone), vitamin E, incretin mimetics, omega-3 fatty acids, cholesterol lowering agents, orlistat, and bariatric surgery. The clinical spectrum, patho-physiological features and therapeutic options of NAFLD share many things in common with T2DM and therefore, this review is to highlight the diabetologist's perspective of the disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / complications
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / epidemiology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / etiology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / therapy