Sarcopenia in hiding: The risk and consequence of underestimating muscle dysfunction in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis

Hepatology. 2017 Dec;66(6):2055-2065. doi: 10.1002/hep.29420. Epub 2017 Oct 30.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of chronic liver disease worldwide. Up to one third of individuals with NAFLD will develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is associated with progression to cirrhosis and is rapidly becoming the leading indication for liver transplantation. Sarcopenia is defined as a progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength, and function. It is observed in up to 60% of patients with end-stage liver disease and portends a poor prognosis. Recent studies have shown that sarcopenia is a novel risk factor for developing NAFLD. Pathophysiological mechanisms relating sarcopenia and NASH may include insulin resistance (IR) and increased inflammation. IR leads to accumulation of triglycerides in both muscle tissue and the liver. It also exacerbates proteolysis and leads to muscle depletion. Chronic inflammation leads to liver injury and progression of fibrosis. The inflammatory milieu also stimulates protein catabolism. Viewing skeletal muscle as an endocrine organ that secretes various salutary myokines may help us understand its role in the development of steatosis. A better understanding of the pathophysiology will aid in developing physical and pharmacological therapeutic interventions. In this review, we will explore the complex inter-relationships between sarcopenia and NASH. We will discuss the impact of sarcopenia in patients with NASH and therapeutic options for the management of sarcopenia. (Hepatology 2017;66:2055-2065).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / complications*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / therapy
  • Sarcopenia / complications*
  • Sarcopenia / diagnosis
  • Sarcopenia / therapy