Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Modulating Gut Microbiota to Improve Severity?

Gastroenterology. 2020 May;158(7):1881-1898. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2020.01.049. Epub 2020 Feb 8.


Gut microbiota plays a role in the pathophysiology of metabolic diseases, which include nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases, through the gut-liver axis. To date, clinical guidelines recommend a weight loss goal of 7%-10% to improve features of nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases. Because this target is not easily achieved by all patients, alternative therapeutic options are currently being evaluated. This review focuses on therapeutics that aim to modulate the gut microbiota and the gut-liver axis. We discuss how probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotic, fecal microbiota transfer, polyphenols, specific diets, and exercise interventions have been found to modify gut microbiota signatures; improve nonalcoholic fatty liver disease outcomes; and detail, when available, the different mechanisms by which these beneficial outcomes might occur. Apart from probiotics that have already been tested in human randomized controlled trials, most of these potential therapeutics have been studied in animals. Their efficacy still warrants confirmation in humans using appropriate design.

Keywords: Exercise; FMT; Microbiota; NAFLD; Polyphenols; Prebiotics; Probiotics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Dietary Supplements* / adverse effects
  • Dysbiosis
  • Exercise
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Healthy Lifestyle*
  • Humans
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / diagnosis
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / microbiology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / therapy*
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome