Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most prevalent form of chronic liver disease in the world, paralleling the epidemic of obesity and Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). NAFLD exhibits a histological spectrum, ranging from “bland steatosis” to the more aggressive necro-inflammatory form, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) which may accumulate fibrosis to result in cirrhosis. Emerging data suggests fibrosis, rather than NASH per se
, to be the most important histological predictor of liver and non-liver related death. Nevertheless, only a small proportion of individuals develop cirrhosis, however the large proportion of the population affected by NAFLD has led to predictions that NAFLD will become a leading cause of end stage liver disease, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and indication for liver transplantation. HCC may arise in non-cirrhotic liver in the setting of NAFLD and is associated with the presence of the metabolic syndrome (MetS) and male gender. The MetS and its components also play a key role in the histological progression of NAFLD, however other genetic and environmental factors may also influence the natural history. The importance of NAFLD in terms of overall survival extends beyond the liver where cardiovascular disease and malignancy represents additional important causes of death.
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