Adherence to Mediterranean Diet and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Effect on Insulin Resistance

Am J Gastroenterol. 2017 Dec;112(12):1832-1839. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2017.371. Epub 2017 Oct 24.


Objectives: The prevalence of cardiometabolic disorders, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is increasing in western countries, because of changes in lifestyle and dietary habits. Mediterranean Diet (Med-Diet) is effective for cardiovascular prevention, but its relationship with NAFLD has been scarcely investigated.

Methods: We included 584 consecutive outpatients presenting with one or more cardiovascular risk factor such as type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), arterial hypertension, overweight/obesity, and dyslipidemia. Liver steatosis was assessed using ultrasonography. Med-Diet adherence was investigated by a validated semiquantitative nine-item dietary questionnaire; patients were divided into low, intermediate, and high adherence. Insulin resistance was defined by the 75th percentile of homeostasis model of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR; ≥3.8).

Results: The mean age was 56.2±12.4 years and 38.2% were women. Liver steatosis was present in 82.7%, and its prevalence decreased from low to high adherence group (96.5% vs. 71.4%, P<0.001). In a multiple logistic regression analysis, hypertriglyceridemia (odds ratio (OR): 2.913; P=0.002), log (ALT) (OR: 6.186; P<0.001), Med-Diet adherence (intermediate vs. low OR: 0.115; P=0.041, high vs. low OR: 0.093; P=0.030), T2DM (OR: 3.940; P=0.003), and high waist circumference (OR: 3.012; P<0.001) were associated with NAFLD. Among single foods, low meat intake (OR: 0.178; P<0.001) was inversely significantly associated with NAFLD. In 334 non-diabetic NAFLD patients, age (OR: 1.035, P=0.025), high waist circumference (OR: 7.855, P<0.001), hypertriglyceridemia (OR: 2.152, P=0.011), and Log (ALT) (OR: 2.549, P=0.002) were directly associated with HOMA-IR, whereas Med-Diet score was inversely associated (OR: 0.801, P=0.018).

Conclusions: We found an inverse relationship between Med-Diet and NAFLD prevalence. Among NAFLD patients, good adherence to Med-Diet was associated with lower insulin resistance. Our findings suggest that Med-Diet may be a beneficial nutritional approach in NAFLD patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / epidemiology*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors