Fatty liver disease predicts onset of type 2 diabetes

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Fatty liver and type 2 diabetes
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A study reveals patients with fatty liver appear to be five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Obesity, high cholesterol levels and insulin resistance are associated with fatty liver and now researchers say it may also be a sign of impending diabetes, even in the absence of abnormal insulin concentrations.

Fatty liver disease independent risk for type 2 diabetes

Researchers believe from their study that fatty liver, a common condition, might be an independent risk factor for type 2 diabetes, based on a study of 11,091 Koreans, showing metabolic disturbances from fat in the liver predicted onset of diabetes type 2 within 5 years.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is common. The condition also accompanies high alcohol intake, but fat can deposit in the liver in the absence of alcohol consumption, leading to inflammation and scarring and even cirrhosis. Other causes include toxins, medication side effects, existing diabetes, rapid weight loss, malnutrition and high triglyceride levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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Sun Kim, MD, of Stanford University in Calif. and senior author of the study. “Our study shows that fatty liver, as diagnosed by ultrasound, strongly predicts the development of type 2 diabetes regardless of insulin concentration.”

For the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, participants received abdominal ultrasound and evaluation of fasting insulin concentration. They were again evaluated in five years.

The findings showed that regardless of insulin levels, fatty liver disease raised the chances of type 2 diabetes significantly. The condition was also associated with higher triglyceride and blood sugar levels and lower levels of "good" HDL cholesterol. Dr. Kim notes the findings show a "complex" association between fatty liver and insulin concentrations.

Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, doi:10.1210/jc.2010-2190

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