Prevalence of fatty liver due to metabolic dysfunction in overweight or obese adults

Fatty liver due to metabolic dysfunction (metabolic dysfunction-associated fatty liver disease; MAFLD) has a very high worldwide prevalence among overweight and obese adults.

This is apparent from a systematic review with meta-analysis that aimed to estimate the worldwide prevalence of MAFLD – the new name for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – in overweight and obese people in the overall population. The Chinese researchers found 116 relevant studies with a total of 2,667,052 participants, via the databases Medline, Embase, Web of Science, Cochrane and Google Scholar (until November 2020). They used a random-effects model for the statistical analysis. In addition, sensitivity analyzes and metaregression were used to investigate in a pooled analysis which factors could predict the MAFLD prevalence.

Based on the collected studies, the worldwide MAFLD prevalence among overweight or obese adults was estimated to be 50.7% (95% CI 46.9-54.4%), independent of the diagnostic techniques used. The most commonly used diagnostic technique was ultrasound and based on this the estimated prevalence was slightly higher: 51.3% (95% CI 49.1-53.4%). The prevalence was more significant in males (59.0%; 95% CI 52.0-65.6%) than among females (47.5%; 95% CI 40.7-54.5%).

Remarkably, the prevalence of MAFLD was comparable in the general population based on NAFLD and non-NAFLD studies. The pooled estimate of the prevalence of comorbidities was 19.7% (95% CI 12.8-29.0) for type 2 diabetes and 57.5% (95% CI 49.9-64.8) for the metabolic syndrome. The findings from this study require attention and action from general practitioners, medical specialists and policy makers, the researchers write.

Liu J, Ayada I, Zhang X, et al. Estimating Global Prevalence of Metabolic Dysfunction-Associated Fatty Liver Disease in Overweight or Obese Adults. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2022;20:e573-e582.


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