Role of the Gut Microbiome in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Nutr Clin Pract. 2015 Dec;30(6):780-6. doi: 10.1177/0884533615605811. Epub 2015 Oct 8.


The incidence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) continues to increase with prevalence estimates ranging from 17%-33%, making it is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in North America. Its importance is due to not only its prevalence but also its association with increased cardiovascular morbidity and progression to cirrhosis in a subset of patients. NAFLD encompasses a pathologic spectrum of disease, from relatively benign accumulation of lipid (steatosis) to progressive nonalcoholic steatohepatitis associated with inflammation, fibrosis, and necrosis. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis remains an important phenotypic state because this subgroup of patients is deemed at high risk for developing cirrhosis and progressing to liver failure requiring transplantation or to death. Gut microbiota has recently been identified as regulators of energy homeostasis and fat deposition, thereby implicating them in the development of obesity and associated metabolic diseases. The growing evidence that alteration in gut microbiota (dysbiosis) may affect liver pathology may allow for a better understanding of its role in the pathogenesis of NAFLD, help to identify patients at risk of progression, and expose a microbial target for prevention and therapeutic intervention. In this review, we discuss the growing evidence that highlights the relationship between gut microbiota and its association with NAFLD.

Keywords: cytokines; fatty acids; fatty liver; liver disease; microbiota; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; obesity; organ transplantation; probiotics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / microbiology*
  • Risk Factors