NAFLD: Study Identifies New Measure That Could Help in Diagnosis

According to a study from, the serum glycocholic acid (GCA) to total bile acid (TBA) ratio can be used to identify people living with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Bile acids are known to play a role in NAFLD progression, so the researchers sought to determine if the GCA to TBA ratio was different from the general population in those living with the illness.

About Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), also known as metabolic-associated fatty liver disease, is a condition characterized by excessive accumulation of fat in the liver accompanied by insulin resistance that isn’t the result of excess alcohol consumption. The condition has the potential to progress to a more severe form called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or liver cirrhosis. There isn’t necessarily a definitive direct cause of NAFLD, but several risk factors have been identified, with the most prominent being obesity. Other factors include diet, high blood pressure, diabetes, genetics, an inactive lifestyle, and microbial imbalances. Many people with the illness do not display symptoms, but jaundice, abdominal pain, malaise, and fatigue can occur. The disease can be treated by losing weight, exercising regularly, and reducing fat in the diet. Medications or other interventions should be reserved for NASH or more serious liver disease. To learn more about NAFLD, click here.

About The Study

This large-scale study included a development cohort of 6,708 people, including 3,849 controls and 2,859 people with NAFLD. There was also an independent validation cohort that consisted of 1,568 people, including 784 controls and 784 patients. The research team developed a model including the GCA to TBA ratio with the goal of screening the disease from the general population.

The scientists found that serum GCA and serum TBA levels were higher in NAFLD patients (1.3 µg/mL vs 1.28 µg/mL and 2.8 µmol/L vs 2.5 µmol/L, respectively). However, the GCA to TBA ratio was lower in patients when compared to the general population (0.44 vs 0.48). A logistic regression analysis demonstrated that this ratio was independently linked with NAFLD.

The findings suggest that GCA to TBA ratio score can be used effectively to identify patients living with the disease. This study was originally published in the scientific journal BioMed Research International. 

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