Extrahepatic Diseases and NAFLD: The Triangular Relationship between NAFLD, Type 2-Diabetes and Dysbiosis 

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) encompasses a spectrum of liver diseases from simple steatosis with hepatic lipid accumulation to end-stage liver disease with decompensated cirrhosis, liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma. Recent data from the USA showed that in 2013, NAFLD was the second most frequent indication for liver transplantation behind hepatitis C. Since there are now effective treatments for hepatitis C and there is currently no licensed treatment for NAFLD, it has been predicted that over the next 10-15 years, NAFLD will replace hepatitis C as the most frequent indication for liver transplantation. Besides, increasing the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma and end-stage liver disease, it has recently become clear that NAFLD also increases risk of extrahepatic diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), cardiovascular disease, cardiac diseases and chronic kidney disease, to name but a few. Of each of these extrahepatic diseases, the evidence to date suggests that NAFLD is a strong risk factor for T2DM. When NAFLD occurs in combination with obesity and insulin resistance (as it frequently does), there is a marked increase in risk of incident T2DM with possible synergism occurring between liver fat accumulation, insulin resistance and obesity to further increase risk of development of T2DM. Thus, there is a reciprocal relationship between NAFLD as a risk factor for T2DM, and T2DM as a risk factor for liver disease progression in NAFLD. Moreover, recent evidence now points to the importance of perturbation of the intestinal microbiota (dysbiosis) in both T2DM and NAFLD. Consequently, there is a triangular relationship between dysbiosis and T2DM and NAFLD. This review will focus on T2DM as a key extrahepatic complication of NAFLD and will describe and discuss the triangular relationship between dysbiosis and T2DM and NAFLD and the factors and potential mechanisms underpinning this relationship. Read more