A new study adds to growing evidence of a link between a common liver disease
associated with obesity and high risk for heart disease.
People with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease have an accumulation of fat in
the liver that is not caused by drinking alcohol. The fat can cause inflammation
and scarring in the liver and progress to life-threatening illness.
"The new findings suggest that patients with coronary artery disease should
be screened for liver disease, and likewise [patients with non-alcoholic fatty
liver disease] should be evaluated for coronary artery disease," said Dr Rajiv
Chhabra, a gastroenterologist at Saint Luke's Health System's Liver Disease
Management Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Researchers looked at upper-abdominal CT scans of nearly 400 patients and
found that those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were more likely to have
coronary artery disease. The effect of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease was
stronger than other more traditional risk factors for heart disease, such as
smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and
Chhabra conducted the study with a colleague, Dr John Helzberg. Their
findings were presented at the American Gastroenterological Association's recent
Current treatments for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease include diet
changes, exercise and increased monitoring.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common liver disorder in
Western countries, and is of growing concern among doctors due to rising rates
of obesity and diabetes.
"If current trends continue, the prevalence of [non-alcoholic fatty liver
disease] is expected to increase to 40% of the population by 2020," Helzberg
said in a Saint Luke's Health System news release.
Data and conclusions presented at meetings should be considered preliminary
until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The American Liver Foundation has more about non-alcoholic
fatty liver disease.