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Possible Link: Hepatic Steatosis and Brain Aging

JAMA Neurol; ePub 2017 Nov 20; Weinstein, et al

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is associated with a smaller total cerebral brain volume, independent of visceral adipose tissue and cardiometabolic risk factors, pointing to a possible link between hepatic steatosis and brain aging, a recent study found. The cross-sectional association between NAFLD and brain MRI measures was assessed from November 6, 2002, to March 16, 2011, in 766 individuals from the Offspring cohort of the Framingham Study. Participants were included if they did not have excessive alcohol intake and were free of stroke and dementia. Data analysis was conducted from December 30, 2015, to June 15, 2016. Researchers found:

  • Of total individuals in the study sample (410 women and 356 men; mean [SD] age at the time of brain MRI, 67 [9] years), 137 (17.9%) had NAFLD.
  • NAFLD was significantly associated with smaller total cerebral brain volume even after adjustment for all the covariates included in the study (β [SE], –0.26 [0.11]).
  • Differences in total cerebral brain volume between those with and without NAFLD corresponded to 4.2 years of brain aging in the general sample and to 7.3 years in individuals aged <60.


Weinstein G, Zelber-Sagi S, Preis SR, et al. Association of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease with lower brain volume in healthy middle-aged adults in the Framingham Study. [Published online ahead of print November 20, 2017]. JAMA Neurol. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.3229.