An improved understanding of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease epidemiology would lead to identification of individuals at high risk of developing chronic liver disease and extra-hepatic complications, thus contributing to more effective case finding of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease among selected groups. We aimed to illustrate the epidemiology of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in high-risk groups, which were identified based on existing literature. To this end, PubMed was searched to retrieve original articles published until May 2015 using relevant and pertinent keywords "nonalcoholic fatty liver disease" and "diabetes", "obesity", "hyperlipidaemia", "familial heterozygous hypobetalipoproteinaemia", "hypertension", "metabolic syndrome", "ethnicity", "family history" or "genetic polymorphisms". We found that age, sex and ethnicity are major physiological modifiers of the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, along with belonging to "non-alcoholic fatty liver disease families" and carrying risk alleles for selected genetic polymorphisms. Metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, mixed hyperlipidaemia and hypocholesterolaemia due to familial hypobetalipoproteinaemia are the major metabolic modifiers of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease risk. Compared with these metabolic conditions, however, arterial hypertension appears to carry a relatively more modest risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. A better understanding of the epidemiology of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may result in a more liberal policy of case finding among high-risk groups.
Keywords: Dyslipidaemia; Metabolic syndrome; NAFLD; Obesity; Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
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