Severity of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is associated with substitution of adipose tissue in skeletal muscle

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Background and Aims

The pathogenesis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is now focusing on its organ cross-talk with not only adipose tissue but also systemic skeletal muscle. Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies were conducted to determine the role of intramuscular adipose tissue content (IMAC) measured by computed tomography on the severity of NAFLD/non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).


Two hundred eight Japanese patients with NAFLD/NASH diagnosed by liver biopsy were enrolled into a cross-sectional study. Twenty-one patients were enrolled in a longitudinal study and received a programmed diet and exercise intervention, in some cases the combination of pharmacotherapy. We measured IMAC in the multifidus muscle and biochemical parameters, and conducted liver histology to assess NAFLD/NASH status.


Histopathological stage in terms of simple steatosis and Brunt's classification was significantly correlated with IMAC (P < 0.01). Multivariate logistic regression analysis indicated that risk factors associated with the severity of NASH were IMAC and aging (IMAC: odds ratio = 2.444, P < 0.05; Age: odds ratio = 2.355, P < 0.05). The interventions improved histopathological changes in 11 patients with NASH as well as IMAC.


These results suggest that skeletal muscle fat accumulation may have been linked to the pathogenesis and severity of NASH.

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