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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is associated with cardiovascular disease risk markers


MA Edens, Department of Epidemiology, University Medical Center Groningen, Hanzeplein 1, PO Box 30.001, 9700 RB Groningen, the Netherlands. E-mail:


Recognition of the link between non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) has boosted research in this area. The main objective of this paper is to review the literature on NAFLD in the context of CVD, focussing on underlying mechanisms and treatment. Besides excessive fatty acid influx, etiologic factors may include components of the metabolic syndrome, cytokines and mitochondrial dysfunction. NAFLD is associated with both hepatic and systemic insulin resistance. In the case of NAFLD, the liver overproduces several atherogenic factors, notably inflammatory cytokines, glucose, lipoproteins and coagulation factors, and factors increasing blood pressure. Intervention studies on diet and laparoscopic surgery revealed improvements of hepatic fat content and CVD risk profile. Pharmacological approaches with potential benefit have been developed as well, but effects are often confounded by weight change. NAFLD is associated with an increased CVD risk profile (and hepatic risk). In order to improve CVD risk profile, prevention and treatment of NAFLD seem advisable. However, well-designed intervention studies, randomized clinical trials and long-term follow-up studies are scarce.