Statins and hepatic steatosis: Perspectives from the Dallas Heart Study


  • Jeffrey D. Browning

    Corresponding author
    1. Donald W. Reynolds Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center, Department of Internal Medicine and Advanced Imaging Research Center, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
    • Advanced Imaging Research Center, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, TX 75390-9085
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    • fax: 214-645-2744.

  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and cardiovascular disease are independently associated. Due to the efficacy of 3-hydroxy 3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins) in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, increasing interest has been shown in establishing the safety of these drugs in NAFLD. In this study, the relationship between statin use, hepatic triglyceride content (HTGC), and serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels was examined in 2,264 Dallas Heart Study participants who were using no lipid-lowering agent (n = 2,124) or using only a statin for lipid management (n = 140). Statin use was not associated with a greater frequency of hepatic steatosis (38% vs. 34%) or elevated serum ALT (15% vs. 13%) by a pair-matched analysis. Statin use was also not associated with a greater prevalence of elevated serum ALT among subjects with hepatic steatosis (n = 638). This finding persisted when controlling for possible sample bias as a result of current prescribing practices for statins. Among subjects with serum lipid abnormalities who were not using a statin, hepatic steatosis was present in 60% of those with mixed hyperlipidemia and 83% of those with both mixed hyperlipidemia and an elevated serum ALT. In conclusion, statin use was not associated with a higher frequency of hepatic steatosis or serum ALT abnormalities, even among those with hepatic steatosis. Individuals meeting criteria for statin therapy are likely to have coexistent hepatic steatosis. (HEPATOLOGY 2006;44:466–471.)