New type of fatty liver diseases found in people who are not obese
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) are common liver diseases. They occur in people who drink little or no alcohol at all and are considered to be consequences of obesity.
However, “not obese” does not equal “no NAFLD / NASH”, since NAFLD may not be linked with obesity in some cases. Fatty liver disease may also develop in non-obese people. The terms “lean NAFLD” and “lean NASH” are used to describe fatty liver in patients who are not overweight or obese. Researchers also proposed the terms “nonobese fatty liver disease (NOFLD)” and “nonobese steatohepatitis (NOSH)” for this type of patients.
How dangerous is NOFLD & NOSH?
NOFLD and NOSH occur in normal weight patients, as defined by the standard parameter of body mass index (BMI). According to a study, NAFLD was reported in up to 10% of lean patients in the US. Worldwide, the prevalence of fatty liver was around 50-70% in obese persons and 15-20% in non-obese persons.
It is important to identify these lean fatty liver disease patients as some studies suggest that this condition is associated with a worse metabolic and liver profile than obesity-related fatty liver disease. Lean NAFLD was also more strongly linked with diabetes, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome than the common obese NAFLD we know.
In addition, several studies have suggested that nonobese patients with fatty liver disease have more severe inflammation, higher prevalence of severe liver fibrosis and higher mortality than obese patients.
Take preventive measures
The standard treatment recommendation for NAFLD patients is healthy diet and exercise. However, for NOFLD patients who are of normal weight and yet are found to have steatohepatitis, what is the most beneficial treatment?
Apart from the standard recommendation – exercise and diet modification, preventive strategies are also important for normal-weight patients with fatty liver. Taking preventive measures to protect liver cells can help to prevent inflammation caused by the excess amount of fat in the liver. As inflammation is the major cause of liver damage, fibrosis and cirrhosis; stopping or preventing inflammation is the key to protecting the liver and reducing the risk of severe liver diseases in the long term.
- * All research and clinical data should be used as reference purposes only, results may vary.