Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Conference on ‘Malnutrition matters’

Symposium 5 (Joint Nutrition Society and BAPEN Symposium): Too many pies: metabolic competencies in obesity

The importance of fatty liver disease in clinical practice

13–14 October 2009, The Annual Meeting of the Nutrition Society and BAPEN, Cardiff International Arena, Cardiff.

Jeremy F. L. Cobbolda1 c1, Quentin M. Ansteea1 and Simon D. Taylor-Robinsona1

a1 Hepatology and Gastroenterology Section, Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, St Mary's Hospital Campus, 10th Floor, QEQM Building, Praed Street, London W2 1NY, UK


The worldwide obesity epidemic over the last 20 years has led to a dramatic increase in the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the hepatic manifestation of the metabolic syndrome. Estimates of prevalence vary depending on the population studied and the methods used to assess hepatic fat content, but are commonly quoted as between 10 and 30% of the adults in the Western hemisphere. Fatty liver develops when fatty acid uptake and synthesis in the liver exceeds fatty acid oxidation and export as TAG. Studies of pathogenesis point to insulin resistance, lipotoxicity, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation being central to the development and progression of the disease. A proportion of individuals with fatty liver develop progressive disease, though large prospective longitudinal studies are lacking. Nevertheless, fatty liver is associated with increased all-cause and liver-related mortality compared with the general population. Management of fatty liver centres around lifestyle and dietary measures to induce controlled and sustained weight loss. Management of cardiovascular risk factors aims to reduce mortality, while certain dietary interventions have been shown to reduce steatosis and inflammation. Specific pharmacological treatments also show promise, but their use is not widespread. A multi-system and multi-disciplinary approach to the management of this disorder is proposed.

(Online publication June 23 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Jeremy F. L. Cobbold, email