Context – Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is increasingly diagnosed worldwide and is the most common chronic liver disease in Western countries. In this review, we discuss the role of NAFLD as a novel cardiometabolic risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and for the development of major chronic complications and poor glycemic control in people with established T2DM. Evidence acquisition – This is a clinical, narrative review and not a systematic review and meta-analysis. PubMed was extensively searched for articles using the keywords “nonalcoholic fatty liver disease” or “fatty liver” combined with “diabetes risk”, “cardiovascular risk”, “cardiovascular mortality”, “chronic kidney disease” or “diabetic nephropathy” between 1990 and 2012. Articles published in languages other than English were excluded from the analysis.Evidence synthesis – NAFLD exacerbates hepatic insulin resistance and increases risk of developing T2DM. Growing evidence also indicates that NAFLD may worsen glycemic control in people with T2DM, and may contribute to the development and progression of the most important chronic complications of diabetes, such as cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease. Conclusions – The adverse impact of NAFLD on risk for T2DM and its major chronic vascular complications deserves particular attention among endocrinologists/cardiologists/hepatologists, in view of the implications for screening and surveillance strategies in the growing number of patients with NAFLD. Clinicians who manage patients with NAFLD should not only focus on liver disease, but should also recognize the increased risk of developing T2DM and its chronic vascular complications and undertake early, aggressive risk factor modification.
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