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The fatty liver index (FLI), which is an algorithm based on waist circumference, body mass index (BMI), triglyceride, and gamma-glutamyl-transferase (GGT), was initially developed to detect fatty liver in Western countries. Our study aimed to evaluate the accuracy and optimal cut-off point of the FLI for predicting nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in middle-aged and elderly Chinese.This cross-sectional study included 8626 Chinese adults aged 40 years or above recruited from Jiading District, Shanghai, China. Anthropometric and biochemical features were collected by a standard protocol. NAFLD was diagnosed by hepatic ultrasonography. The accuracy and cut-off point of the FLI to detect NAFLD were evaluated by area under the receiver operator characteristic curve (AUROC) and the maximum Youden index analysis, respectively.The AUROC of the FLI for NAFLD was 0.834 (95% confidence interval: 0.825–0.842), and larger than that of its each individual component [0.786 (0.776–0.796), 0.783 (0.773–0.793), 0.727 (0.716–0.739), and 0.707 (0.695–0.719) for waist circumference, BMI, triglyceride, and GGT, respectively] (all P < 0.001). The optimal cut-off point of the FLI for diagnosing NAFLD was 30 with the maximum Youden Index of 0.51, achieving a high sensitivity of 79.89% and a specificity of 71.51%. The FLI-diagnosed NAFLD individuals were in worse metabolic characteristics (waist circumference, BMI, blood pressure, serum lipids, and aminotransferases) than ultrasonography-diagnosed NAFLD patients (all P < 0.05).The FLI could accurately identify NAFLD and the optimal cut-off point was 30 in middle-aged and elderly Chinese. As FLI-diagnosed NAFLD patients were in worse metabolism, much attention should be paid to the metabolic controls and managements of NAFLD.