1Nutrition and Metabolism, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK; Southampton National Institute for Health Research, Biomedical Research Centre, University Hospital Southampton, UK. Electronic address: email@example.com.
2Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, University and Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Integrata of Verona, Verona, Italy.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in Western countries that is predicted to become also the most frequent indication for liver transplantation by 2030. Over the last decade, it has been shown that the clinical burden of NAFLD is not only confined to liver-related morbidity and mortality, but there is now growing evidence that NAFLD is a multisystem disease, affecting extra-hepatic organs and regulatory pathways. For example, NAFLD increases risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), cardiovascular (CVD) and cardiac diseases, and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Although the primary liver pathology in NAFLD affects hepatic structure and function to cause morbidity and mortality from cirrhosis, liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma, the majority of deaths among NAFLD patients are attributable to CVD. This narrative review focuses on the rapidly expanding body of clinical evidence that supports the concept of NAFLD as a multisystem disease. The review discusses the factors involved in the progression of liver disease in NAFLD and the factors linking NAFLD with other extra-hepatic chronic diseases, such as T2DM, CVD, cardiac diseases and CKD. The review will not discuss NAFLD treatments as these are discussed elsewhere in this issue of the Journal. For this review, PubMed was searched for articles using the keywords "non-alcoholic fatty liver disease" or "fatty liver" combined with "diabetes", "cardiovascular (or cardiac) disease", "cardiovascular mortality" or "chronic kidney disease" between 1990 and 2014. Articles published in languages other than English were excluded.