NAFLD is very common in the general population and its prevalence is increasing worldwide in parallel with the increasing incidences of obesity and metabolic diseases, mainly type 2 diabetes. In some cases, however, the diagnosis of NAFLD remains uncertain because other causes of liver disease are noteasy to exclude in patients who are diagnosed with NAFLD after a biochemical or ultrasonographic analysis.Several studies have documented a strong association between NAFLD and traditional and nontraditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Accordingly, patients with NAFLD have an increased prevalence and incidence of both CVD and CKD. It is reasonable to believe that NAFLD, CVD and CKD share common risk factors (such as visceral obesity, insulin resistance, dysglycaemia, dyslipidaemia and hypertension) and therefore that NAFLD might simply be a marker rather than a causal risk factor of CVD and CKD. In this context, the identification of NAFLD might be an additional clinical feature to improve the stratification of patients for their risk of CVD and CKD. Growing evidence suggests that in patients with NAFLD, especially if NASH is present, several molecules released from the steatotic and inflamed liver might have pathogenic roles in the development of atherosclerosis and kidney damage. If these findings are confirmed by further studies, NAFLD could become a target for the prevention and treatment of CVD and CKD. NAFLD, whatever its role (marker or causal risk factor), is therefore a clinical condition that deserves greater attention from gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists and nephrologists, as well as internists and general practitioners.
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