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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and its association with obesity, insulin resistance and increased serum levels of C-reactive protein in Hispanics


Arnoldo Riquelme, MD, MMedEd, Departmento de Gastroenterología, Facultad de Medicina, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Marcoleta 367, Casilla 114-D., Santiago, Chile
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Background: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a metabolic disorder of the liver, which may progress to fibrosis or cirrhosis. Recent studies have shown a significant impact of ethnicity on susceptibility to steatosis-related liver disease.

Aims: To estimate the prevalence of NAFLD among Chilean Hispanics as well as the clinical and biochemical variables associated with the disease.

Methods: Population-based study among Chilean Hispanics. The diagnosis of NAFLD was made on the basis of ultrasound evidence of fatty liver and absence of significant alcohol consumption and hepatitis C virus infection.

Results: A total of 832 Hispanic subjects were included. Ultrasound findings revealed diffuse fatty liver in 23% of the subjects. Variables associated with fatty liver in multivariate analysis were body mass index >26.9 [odds ratio (OR) 6.2; 95% confidence interval (CI) 3.3–11.5], abnormal aspartate aminotransferase levels (OR 14; 95% CI 8.2–23.7), presence of insulin resistance as measured by homoeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance (OR 3; 95% CI 1.8–4.8) and serum levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) greater than 0.86 mg/L (OR 2.9; 95% CI 1.6–5.2). Among subjects with NAFLD, levels of hs-CRP were similar regardless of the alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level.

Conclusions: Chilean Hispanics exhibit a high prevalence of NAFLD. Obesity, insulin resistance, abnormal aminotransferase levels and elevated hs-CRP were independently associated with the presence of NAFLD. ALT elevation underestimates the presence of ultrasonographical fatty liver, whereas hs-CRP is a sensitive independent marker of NAFLD, which may be useful for detecting fatty liver in the general population.

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