Although nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is frequent in obesity, the metabolic determinants of advanced liver disease remain unclear. Adipokines reflect inflammation and insulin resistance associated with obesity and may identify advanced NAFLD. At the time of obesity surgery, 142 consecutive patients underwent liver biopsy and had their preoperative demographic and clinical data obtained. Liver histology was scored by the NAFLD activity score, and patients subdivided into four groups. Concentrations of retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4), adiponectin, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and leptin were determined ∼1 week prior to surgery and results were related to liver histology. The prevalence of no NAFLD was 30%, simple steatosis 23%, borderline nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) 28%, and definitive NASH 18%. Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and metabolic syndrome (MS) prevalence were 39 and 75%, respectively, and did not differ across the four histological groups (P = NS). Triglyceride (TG) and alanine transaminase (ALT) levels, strongly associated with advanced stages of NAFLD and NASH (P = 0.04). TG levels >150 mg/dl, increased the likelihood of NASH 3.4-fold, whereas high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels predicted no NAFLD (P < 0.01). Concentrations of TNF-α, leptin, and RBP4 did not differ among histological groups and thus did not identify NASH; however, there was a trend for adiponectin to be lower in NASH vs. no NAFLD (P = 0.061). In summary, both TG and ALT levels assist in identification of NASH in an obesity surgery cohort. These findings underscore the importance of fatty acid delivery mechanisms to NASH development in severely obese individuals.