Management of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Lessons learned from type 2 diabetes

Naim Alkhouri, Fred Poordad, Eric Lawitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is considered the hepatic manifestation of insulin resistance, which is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes (T2D). NAFLD is a known risk factor for developing T2D and has a very high prevalence in those with existing T2D. The diabetes spectrum includes several conditions from prediabetes to T2D to insulin-dependent diabetes leading to macrovascular and microvascular complications. Similarly, NAFLD has a histologic spectrum that ranges from the relatively benign nonalcoholic fatty liver to the aggressive form of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis with or without liver fibrosis to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis-cirrhosis leading to end-stage liver disease. The management of T2D has witnessed significant changes over the past few decades with multiple new drug classes entering the treatment algorithm. Unfortunately, there are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved medications to treat NAFLD, and guidelines for the management of NAFLD are less established. However, the field of drug development in NAFLD has witnessed a revolution over the past 5 years with the establishment of a regulatory pathway for Food and Drug Administration approval; this has generated substantial interest from pharmaceutical companies. Several diabetes medications have been studied as potential treatments for NAFLD with promising results; moreover, drugs that target specific pathways that play a role in NAFLD development and progression are being developed at a rapid pace. Given the similarities between NAFLD and T2D in terms of pathogenesis, underlying risk factors, and disease spectrum, lessons learned from optimizing treatment for T2D can be extrapolated to the management of NAFLD. The aim of this review is to use the founding principles of the comprehensive type 2 diabetes management algorithm to optimize the management of NAFLD. (Hepatology Communications 2018;2:778-785).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)778-785
Number of pages8
JournalHepatology Communications
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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