Global Epidemiology of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Perspectives on US Minority Populations

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Background: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a clinical syndrome predicted to be the next global epidemic affecting millions of people worldwide. The natural course of this disease including its subtype, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), is not clearly defined especially in the African-American segment of the US population.

Aims: To conduct a review of the global epidemiology of NAFLD with emphasis on US minority populations. Methods: A thorough search of evidence-based literature was conducted using the Pubmed database and commercial web sources such as Medscape and Google Scholar.

Results: NAFLD and its subtype NASH are becoming the principal cause of chronic liver disease across the world. In the US, Hispanics are the most disproportionately affected ethnic group with hepatic steatosis, and elevated aminotransferase levels, whereas African-Americans are the least affected. Genetic disparities involved in lipid metabolism seem to be the leading explanation for the lowest incidence and prevalence of both NAFLD and NASH in African-Americans.

Conclusions: The unprecedented rise in the prevalence of NAFLD globally requires an initiation of population cohort studies with long-term follow-up to determine the incidence and natural history of NAFLD and its underrepresentation in African-Americans. Future studies should also focus on the delineation of the interplay between genetic and environmental factors that trigger the development of NAFLD and NASH.


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