Food Insecurity is Associated With Mortality Among U.S. Adults With Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Advanced Fibrosis

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2022 Dec;20(12):2790-2799.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2021.11.029. Epub 2021 Dec 16.


Background & aims: Food insecurity is a growing public health challenge in the United States (U.S.) and has been linked to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and advanced fibrosis. However, little is known of how food insecurity impacts mortality risk and health care utilization in chronic liver disease.

Methods: Using a population-based cohort study of U.S. adults (≥20 years) in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999 to 2014, with NAFLD (estimated by the U.S. Fatty Liver Index) and advanced fibrosis (estimated by the NAFLD fibrosis score, aspartate aminotransferase-to-platelet ratio index, or Fibrosis-4 Index), food security was measured using the Department of Agriculture Food Security Survey Module. The primary outcome was all-cause mortality from National Death Index data and the secondary outcome was health care utilization, defined as ≥2 inpatient and ≥4 outpatient visits, with Cox and logistic regression, respectively, estimating associations between food insecurity and outcomes.

Results: Of 34,134 eligible participants (mean age, 47 years; 51% women; 14% in poverty), 4816 had NAFLD and 1654 had advanced fibrosis, with food insecurity present in 28% and 21%, respectively. All-cause age-adjusted mortality was 12 per 1000 person-years among participants with NAFLD (food-secure, 11; food-insecure, 15) and 32 per 1000 person-years among advanced fibrosis participants (food-secure, 28; food-insecure, 50). In multivariable analyses, food insecurity was independently associated with higher mortality among participants with NAFLD (hazard ratio, 1.46; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08-1.97) and advanced fibrosis (hazard ratio, 1.37; 95% CI, 1.01-1.86) and greater outpatient health care utilization in participants with NAFLD (odds ratio, 1.32; 95% CI, 1.05-1.67).

Conclusions: Food insecurity is significantly associated with greater all-cause mortality in adults with NAFLD and advanced fibrosis. Interventions that address food insecurity among adults with liver disease should be prioritized to improve health outcomes in this population.

Keywords: Fatty Liver; Food Insecurity; Health Care Utilization; Liver Fibrosis; Mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Food Insecurity
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / complications
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • United States / epidemiology