Recent studies report a prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) of between 70% and 80% in patients with metabolic syndrome (MS) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Nevertheless, it is not possible to differentiate between simple steatosis and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) with non-invasive tests. The aim of this study was to differentiate between simple steatosis and NASH by liver biopsy in patients with hypertransaminasemia and MS or T2DM. Two hundred and fifteen patients with increased ALT levels and MS, and 136 patients at their first diagnosis of T2DM regardless of ALT values were consecutively admitted to a tertiary hepatology center between January 2004 and November 2014. Exclusion criteria were other causes of liver disease/ALT increase. Each patient underwent a clinical, laboratory and ultrasound evaluation, and a liver biopsy. Gender distribution, age, and body mass index were similar in the two groups of patients, whereas cholesterol levels, glycemia and blood pressure were significantly different between the two groups. The prevalence of NAFLD was 94.82% in MS patients and 100% in T2DM patients. NASH was present in 58.52% of MS patients and 96.82% of T2DM. Consequently, this study reveals that, by using liver biopsy, almost all patients with T2DM or MS have NAFLD, which in patients with T2DM means NASH. Importantly, it suggests that NASH may be one of the early complications of T2DM due to its pathophysiological correlation with insulin resistance.