Introduction: Cross-sectional data note lower levels of testosterone and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels in men with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Whether sex hormone levels in young men are predictive of later risk of NAFLD is not known.
Methods: Among men in the prospective population-based multicenter Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study (mean age 50; n = 837), we assessed whether testosterone and SHBG levels measured at study year 10 (median age 35 years) were associated with prevalent NAFLD at study year 25. NAFLD was defined using noncontrast abdominal computed tomography (CT) scan after excluding other causes of hepatic steatosis. The association of testosterone and SHBG with prevalent NAFLD was assessed by logistic regression.
Results: Total testosterone levels in young men were inversely associated with subsequent prevalent NAFLD on unadjusted analysis (odds ratio [OR] 0.64, 95% confidence interval 0.53-0.7, P < 0.001), although no longer significant after adjustment for year 10 metabolic covariates as well as change in metabolic covariates from years 10 to 25 (OR 0.99, 95% confidence interval 0.76-1.27). In contrast, there was a significant inverse association of SHBG with prevalent NAFLD, independent of testosterone and metabolic covariates (OR 0.68, OR 0.51-0.92, P = 0.013). On formal mediation testing, visceral adiposity was found to explain ∼41.0% (95% confidence interval 27%-73%) of the association of lower SHBG with prevalent NAFLD.
Conclusions: Lower levels of SHBG in young men are associated with increase in prevalent NAFLD in middle age, independent of comprehensive metabolic risk factors. SHBG may provide a novel marker of NAFLD risk in young men.