At the recent annual meeting of the American College of Physicians, it was declared that nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the 21st century epidemic in liver disease—given the extraordinary growth in the disease’s prevalence, due to the related epidemics of both obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Statistics indicate that the global prevalence of NAFLD is 24%; almost three-quarters of patients with NAFLD are obese. Zobair M. Younossi, MD, a gastroenterologist who serves as professor and chairman of the department of medicine at the Inova Fairfax campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, conducted a recent meta-analysis of studies from 20 countries, and concluded that the prevalence of NAFLD in individuals with T2DM was 58%.
Quoted in a recent article published in MDedge.com, Dr. Younossi stated: “The prevalence of NAFLD in U.S. kids is about 10%. This is of course part of the coming tsunami because our kids are getting obese, diabetic, and they’re going to have problems with NASH [nonalcoholic steatohepatitis].” NASH, the type of NAFLD that has the strongest prognostic implications, can ultimately progress to cirrhosis, liver failure, or hepatocellular carcinoma. Additionally, findings have demonstrated that NASH is further associated with a significantly greater risk of both liver-related and all-cause mortality than that of non-NASH NAFLD, although NAFLD carries an increased risk of cardiovascular disease: the leading cause of death in that population.