Clinical and Metabolic Characterization of Lean Caucasian Subjects With Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver

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Objectives:Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is closely linked to obesity; however, 5–8% of lean subjects also have evidence of NAFLD. We aimed to investigate clinical, genetic, metabolic and lifestyle characteristics in lean Caucasian subjects with NAFLD.Methods:Data from 187 subjects allocated to one of the three groups according to body mass index (BMI) and hepatic steatosis on ultrasound were obtained: lean healthy (BMI≤25 kg/m2, no steatosis,N=71), lean NAFLD (BMI≤25 kg/m2, steatosis,N=55), obese NAFLD (BMI≥30 kg/m2, steatosis;N=61). All subjects received a detailed clinical and laboratory examination including oral glucose tolerance test. The serum metabolome was assessed using the Metabolomics AbsoluteIDQ p180 kit (BIOCRATES Life Sciences). Genotyping for single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with NAFLD was performed.Results:Lean NAFLD subjects had fasting insulin concentrations similar to lean healthy subjects but had markedly impaired glucose tolerance. Lean NAFLD subjects had a higher rate of the mutant PNPLA3 CG/GG variant compared to lean controls (P=0.007). Serum adiponectin concentrations were decreased in both NAFLD groups compared to controls (P<0.001 for both groups) The metabolomics study revealed a potential role for various lysophosphatidylcholines (lyso-PC C18:0, lyso-PC C17:0) and phosphatidylcholines (PCaa C36:3; false discovery rate (FDR)-correctedP-value<0.001) as well as lysine, tyrosine, and valine (FDR<0.001).Conclusions:Lean subjects with evidence of NAFLD have clinically relevant impaired glucose tolerance, low adiponectin concentrations and a distinct metabolite profile with an increased rate of PNPLA3 risk allele carriage.

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