- 1Diabetes and Fibrotic Disease Research Unit, Translational Genomics Research Institute, Phoenix, Arizona.
- 2Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Purpose of review: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is strongly associated with obesity, but is also common in individuals with a normal body mass index (BMI), who also experience the hepatic inflammation, fibrosis, and decompensated cirrhosis associated with NAFLD progression. The clinical evaluation and treatment of NAFLD in this patient population are challenging for the gastroenterologist. A better understanding of the epidemiology, natural history, and outcomes of NAFLD in individuals with normal BMI is emerging. This review examines the relationship between metabolic dysfunction and clinical characteristics associated with NAFLD in normal-weight individuals.
Recent findings: Despite a more favorable metabolic profile, normal-weight NAFLD patients exhibit metabolic dysfunction. Visceral adiposity may be a critical risk factor for NAFLD in normal-weight individuals, and waist circumference may be better than BMI for assessing metabolic risk in these patients. Although screening for NAFLD is not presently recommended, recent guidelines may assist clinicians in the diagnosis, staging, and management of NAFLD in individuals with a normal BMI.
Summary: Individuals with a normal BMI likely develop NAFLD as a result of different etiologies. Subclinical metabolic dysfunction may be a key component of NAFLD in these patients, and efforts to better understand this relationship in this patient population are needed.