More than 60 per cent of patients with type 2 diabetes show signs of non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease (NAFLD), according to new research.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, also established a link between NAFLD and many aspects of metabolic syndromen, including hypertension and larger waist.
The researchers analysed the data of 100 adult patients, all of whom had type 2 diabetes. On average, the participants had a BMI of 30.8, and had had type 2 diabetes for 8.5 years. Each participant was scanned to assess the presence of NAFLD.
65 per cent of participants showed signs of NAFLD. Surprisingly, the prevalence of NAFLD was lower in older participants, and higher in younger ones. Almost 79 per cent of participants under the age of 58 had NAFLD, compared to 68 per cent of participants between the ages of 58 and 65, and 47 per cent of those over 65.
The researchers concluded that current methods of screening for NAFLD are inaccurate. Certain predictors of NAFLD progression may help clinicians to make an early diagnosis, including lower levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, higher triglyceride levels and greater mean waist circumference.
“Most patients have no idea that they have fatty-liver disease until they develop cirrhosis, and that’s why it’s a silent killer,” said senior author Rohit Loomba, MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, to Medscape Medical News.
“But the beautiful thing about the liver is that it can regenerate, and many new therapies are in the pipeline for the treatment for NAFLD and NAFLD-related fibrosis.
“So identification of these patients is key: we will be able to be able to stop progression of disease; we will be able to reverse cirrhosis and fibrosis with these new therapies, and we already are doing so in some patients.
“If physicians have a patient with three or four features of the metabolic syndrome and they are diabetic, I can almost guarantee you that they have NAFLD…so if physicians have patients like this, they need be to asking themselves: ‘Am I missing liver disease here?’ and refer them to a hepatologist for evaluation.”
The findings were published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

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