Non-alcohol related fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

NAFLD is the name given to a condition in which you have too much fat in your liver.

There should be little or no fat in a healthy liver and for most people, carrying a small amount of fat in the liver causes no major problems.

Too much fat in your liver is caused by the build-up of fats called triglycerides.


Facts about NAFLD

fatty liver disease NAFLD is characterised by the build-up of excess fat in the liver of people who do not drink more than recommended guideline amounts of alcohol. The first stage is fatty liver, or steatosis. This is where fat accumulates in the liver cells without any inflammation or scarring. For many people, the condition will not advance and a serious liver condition will not develop, but for some, NAFLD can progress on to NASH. NASH is a more significant condition, as it may cause scarring to the liver, and can progress to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis causes irreversible damage to the liver and is the most severe stage of NAFLD. It may be easiest to think of NAFLD as having the following stages:
  1. Non-alcohol related fatty liver or steatosis
  2. Non-alcohol related steatohepatitis (NASH)
  3. NASH with fibrosis
  4. Cirrhosis.
NAFLD can affect a wide range of people. In general, the more overweight you are, the more chance there is that you may have the condition. NAFLD is typically seen in people aged around 50 and more commonly in men than women.
It is hard to be precise about how many people have some form of NAFLD but it is estimated that one in five people (20%) in the UK are in the early stages of the condition.

Acute Fatty Liver Disease
It is important to differentiate NAFLD and NASH from acute fatty liver disease, which may occur during pregnancy or with certain drugs or toxins (poisons). This condition is very rare and may lead rapidly to liver failure. Please see our Liver Health section for more information