High-free androgen index is associated with increased risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, independent of obesity and insulin resistance

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Central obesity and insulin resistance (IR) are common conditions in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and in subjects with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). However, few studies have addressed the association between hyperandrogenism (HA) and NAFLD. We aimed to determine whether variations in the free androgen index (FAI) might be associated with NAFLD prevalence.


A cross-sectional study was performed including 400 Chinese women with PCOS and 100 age, and body mass index (BMI)-matched women. The anthropometric and serum biochemical parameters related to sex steroids, glucose and lipid profiles were examined. Liver fat content (LFC) was measured by quantitative ultrasound.


The prevalence of NAFLD was 56.23% in PCOS patients and 38% in controls (P = 0.001), and this prevalence increased with FAI quartile independently of obesity and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). The FAI level increased from non-NAFLD group to NAFLD group. The FAI was positively associated with the metabolic parameters LFC, BMI, waist circumference, alanine aminotransferases, aspartate, triglyceride, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and was negatively associated with high-density lipoprotein. Moreover, in multivariate logistic regression analysis BMI, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), FAI, LFC and HOMA-IR were significantly associated with NAFLD. The cut-off values of FAI, LFC, BMI and hsCRP to predict NAFLD were 9.86%, 17.19%, 24.38% and 0.72%, respectively. The area under the curve for predicting NAFLD in PCOS patients showed comparable sensitivity and specificity between BMI and a new index combining FAI with hsCRP.


A higher FAI level is associated with increased LFC and NAFLD prevalence independent of obesity and IR.

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