Ballooning degeneration (BD) of hepatocytes is a distinguishing histological feature associated with the progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Under the assumption that NAFLD severity is associated with metabolic-stress we explored the hypothesis that heat shock 27 kDa protein 1 (HSP27), a protein chaperone involved in stress resistance and cytoskeletal-remodeling, might be deregulated in ballooned hepatocytes. We observed that fasting plasma glucose (fpG) (p = 0.00002), total cholesterol (p = 0.02) and triglycerides (p = 0.01) levels, and female sex (p = 0.01) were significantly associated with the presence of BD. A logistic regression model showed that BD was independently associated with fpG (p = 0.002); OR per unit of glucose concentration 1.05, 95% confidence interval 1.02-1.09. Furthermore, BD was associated with a significant 2.24-fold decrease in the expression level of HSP27-mRNA in comparison with absence of ballooning, p = 0.002. Ballooned hepatocytes showed very low HSP27 immunoreactivity compared with hepatocyes without ballooning (p = 0.009); HSP27 immunoreactivity was inversely correlated with fpG levels (R: -0.49, p = 0.01). In conclusion, BD is associated with down-regulation of liver HSP27 gene and protein expression, suggesting that ballooned hepatocytes fail to ensure a robust physiological response to metabolic-induced stress.