Background: Whether non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a risk factor for gallstones remains uncertain. Few longitudinal or cohort studies have been used to identify this relationship. The aim of this study was to confirm the association between NAFLD and gallstones in a longitudinal cohort of urban dwellers in China.
Methods: To elucidate the association between NAFLD and gallstones, we fitted a generalized estimating equation (GEE) model in a large-scale longitudinal cohort over 6 years, which included 11,200 participants with at least three regular health check-ups.
Results: A total of 498 cases of gallstones occurred during the 6-year follow-up, which resulted in a total incidence density of 12.73 per 1000 person-years (498/39, 135.5 person-years). The GEE analyses confirmed and clarified the association between NAFLD and gallstones (relative risk (RR) = 1.2381, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.003-1.528, P = 0.047) after adjusting for other potential confounding factors, especially in females (RR = 1.707, 95% CI = 1.245-2.341, P = 0.001).
Conclusions: NAFLD is associated with gallstones in an urban Chinese population from the middle to upper socioeconomic strata. Moreover, this association is more strongly apparent in females than in males. Further cohort studies must be conducted to confirm this association in the general population.