Association of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease with incident dementia later in life among elder adults

Clin Mol Hepatol. 2022 Jul;28(3):510-521. doi: 10.3350/cmh.2021.0332. Epub 2022 Mar 17.


Background/aims: Accumulating evidence suggests a link between non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and brain health. However, population-based evidence on the association between NAFLD and dementia remains unclear. This study was conducted to determine the association between NAFLD and incident dementia.

Methods: The study population included 608,994 adults aged ≥60 years who underwent health examinations between 2009 and 2010. Data were collected from the Korean National Health Insurance Service database. NAFLD was assessed using the fatty liver index (FLI). A Cox proportional hazards regression model was used to determine the association between NAFLD and dementia.

Results: During the 6,495,352 person-years of follow-up, 48,538 participants (8.0%) developed incident dementia. The participants were classified into low (FLI <30), intermediate (FLI ≥30 and <60), and high (FLI ≥60) groups. In the overall study population, the FLI groups were associated with a risk of dementia (P for trend <0.001). After propensity score matching, a low FLI was associated with a reduced risk of dementia (adjusted hazard ration [aHR], 0.96; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.93-0.98; P=0.002), whereas a high FLI (NAFLD) was associated with an increased risk of dementia (aHR, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.02-1.08; P=0.001). A higher risk of dementia in the high FLI group than in the intermediate FLI group was attributed to Alzheimer's disease (aHR, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.01-1.07; P=0.004) rather than vascular dementia (aHR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.75-1.18; P=0.602).

Conclusion: NAFLD was associated with an increased risk of dementia, which was attributed to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Epidemiology; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Vascular dementia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease* / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease* / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease* / epidemiology
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / complications
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / diagnosis
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / epidemiology
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors