Let's talk about Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

What is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease?

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, is a condition characterized by the buildup of fat in the liver. For many people with NAFLD, this accumulation of fat does not cause serious liver damage. However, some people may have a more severe form of NAFLD called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) where the buildup of fat results in inflammation and liver damage. 

A healthy liver compared to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease both in a fatty liver and a liver with inflammation (NASH). There are yellow spots in the fatty liver and larger yellow spots in the liver with inflammation. This is visual evidence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. 

Is NAFLD genetic? 

Genetics does play a role in NAFLD. Family history can also impact the chances of developing the condition, especially if a first-degree relative has NASH. 

Lifestyle matters 

Besides genetics, lifestyle can also affect the chances of developing NAFLD. Experts agree that maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly can lower the chances of developing the condition. As the name suggests,  nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is not caused by excessive alcohol consumption. However, alcohol can still cause fat buildup and damage in the liver, which is one reason it’s important for everyone to avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes.

Did you know?

It’s estimated that 20–40% of adults in the U.S. have NAFLD. Certain health conditions like type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol can increase the chances of developing NAFLD. NAFLD is more common in people of Hispanic or Latin American descent

Explore more 

Want to learn more about how your genetics may play a role in NAFLD? 23andMe’s Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease report (Powered by 23andMe Research) can tell you more about your likelihood to develop the condition. You can access this report through the 23andMe+ membership. 23andMe+ includes our Health + Ancestry Service plus 10+ exclusive reports & features throughout the calendar year.

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 ‡10+ reports and features will be added annually January to December.

Please note:

  • The Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease report (Powered by 23andMe Research) does not diagnose NAFLD and should not be used to make medical decisions.
  • The report was developed by 23andMe scientists using data and insights gathered from thousands of customers who consented to participate in our research. Reports based on 23andMe research provide an estimate of your likelihood of developing a condition based on your genetics and other factors. This report does not account for lifestyle or family history.
  • The report does not account for every possible genetic variant that could affect your likelihood of developing NAFLD.

References

Caussy C et al. (2017). “Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease with cirrhosis increases familial risk for advanced fibrosis.” J Clin Invest. 127(7):2697-2704. 

Chalasani N et al. (2018). “The diagnosis and management of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Practice guidance from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.” Hepatology. 67(1):328-357. 

George ES et al. (2018). “Practical Dietary Recommendations for the Prevention and Management of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Adults.” Adv Nutr. 9(1):30-40. 

Golabi P et al. (2019). “Prevalence and outcomes of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) among Asian American adults in the United States.” Liver Int. 39(4):748-757. 

Lazo M et al. (2013). “Prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the United States: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994.” Am J Epidemiol. 178(1):38-45. 

Leoni S et al. (2018). “Current guidelines for the management of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A systematic review with comparative analysis.” World J Gastroenterol. 24(30):3361-3373. 

Mayo Clinic. “Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.” Retrieved November 4, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354567. 

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2016). “Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease & NASH.” Retrieved November 4, 2020, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/nafld-nash. 

Trovato FM et al. (2019). “Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) prevention: role of Mediterranean diet and physical activity.” Hepatobiliary Surg Nutr. 8(2):167-169.