CONTEXT: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is associated with insulin resistance (IR) and predicts type 2 diabetes. Currently, it is uncertain whether NAFLD may directly cause IR or vice versa.OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that NAFLD is causally related to IR.DESIGN AND METHODS: We performed a Mendelian randomization (MR) in 904 obese children/adolescents using an NAFLD-related genetic risk score (GRS) as an instrumental variable. We assessed NAFLD by ultrasonography and IR by homeostasis model assessment (HOMA-IR). We also interrogated the MAGIC Consortium dataset of 46 186 adults to assess the association between PNPLA3 rs738409 (ie, the most robust NAFLD-related polymorphism) and HOMA-IR, and we performed a 2-sample MR with 2 large datasets to test reverse causation (HOMA-IR increasing the risk of NAFLD).RESULTS: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease prevalence increased by 20% for every increase in the GRS (beta-coefficient = 0.20, P < 0.001), and NAFLD was associated with ln-HOMA-IR (beta-coefficient = 0.28, P < 0.001). Thus, the expected increase in ln-HOMA-IR for every increase in the GRS (expected beta-coefficient) was 0.056 (0.28*0.20) in the case of complete NAFLD-HOMA-IR causal association, and 0.042 in the case of 75% causality. In our cohort, the GRS did not predict ln-HOMA-IR (beta-coefficient = 0.007, P = 0.75). In the MAGIC cohort, the PNPLA3 rs738409 did not associate with ln-HOMA-IR. The 2-sample MR failed to show a causal association between ln-HOMA-IR and NAFLD.CONCLUSIONS: Our study shows that genetically-influenced NAFLD does not increase HOMA-IR, and genetically-influenced HOMA-IR does not increase the risk of NAFLD. Shared pathogenic pathways or NAFLD subtypes not "captured" by our MR design might underpin the association between NAFLD and HOMA-IR.
Morandi, Anita;Zusi, Chiara;El Mazloum, Dania;Fornari, Elena;Targher, Giovanni
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