Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Steatohepatitis: Risk Factors and Pathophysiology

Sharmin Akter


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and its progressive subtype non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) are the most prevalent liver diseases, often leading to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This review aims to describe the present knowledge of the risk factors responsible for the development of NAFLD and NASH. I performed a literature review identifying studies focusing on the complex pathogenic pathway and risk factors of NAFLD and steatohepatitis. The relationship between NAFLD and metabolic syndrome is well established and widely recognized. Obesity, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and insulin resistance are the most common risk factors associated with NAFLD. Among the components of metabolic syndrome, current evidence strongly suggests obesity and type 2 diabetes as risk factors of NASH and HCC. However, other elements, namely gender divergences, ethnicity, genetic factors, participation of innate immune system, oxidative stress, apoptotic pathways, and adipocytokines, take a leading role in the onset and promotion of NAFLD. Pathophysiological mechanisms that are responsible for NAFLD development and subsequent progression to NASH are insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, oxidative stress, hepatic stellate cell activation, cytokine/adipokine signaling pathways, and genetic and environmental factors. Major pathophysiological findings of NAFLD are dysfunction of adipose tissue through the enhanced flow of free fatty acids and release of adipokines, and altered gut microbiome that generate proinflammatory signals and cause NASH progression. Understanding the pathophysiology and risk factors of NAFLD and NASH; this review could provide insight into the development of therapeutic strategies and useful diagnostic tools.


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Metabolic syndrome; Insulin resistance; Obesity; Type 2 diabetes

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