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Hepatology. 2018 Jan;67(1):123-133. doi: 10.1002/hep.29466. Epub 2017 Dec 1.

Modeling the epidemic of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease demonstrates an exponential increase in burden of disease.

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Center for Disease Analysis, Lafayette, CO.
Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of California, San Diego, CA.
Department of Medicine, Inova Fairfax Hospital, Falls Church, VA.
Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, VA.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and resulting nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) are highly prevalent in the United States, where they are a growing cause of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and increasingly an indicator for liver transplantation. A Markov model was used to forecast NAFLD disease progression. Incidence of NAFLD was based on historical and projected changes in adult prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM). Assumptions were derived from published literature where available and validated using national surveillance data for incidence of NAFLD-related HCC. Projected changes in NAFLD-related cirrhosis, advanced liver disease, and liver-related mortality were quantified through 2030. Prevalent NAFLD cases are forecasted to increase 21%, from 83.1 million (2015) to 100.9 million (2030), while prevalent NASH cases will increase 63% from 16.52 million to 27.00 million cases. Overall NAFLD prevalence among the adult population (aged ≥15 years) is projected at 33.5% in 2030, and the median age of the NAFLD population will increase from 50 to 55 years during 2015-2030. In 2015, approximately 20% of NAFLD cases were classified as NASH, increasing to 27% by 2030, a reflection of both disease progression and an aging population. Incidence of decompensated cirrhosis will increase 168% to 105,430 cases by 2030, while incidence of HCC will increase by 137% to 12,240 cases. Liver deaths will increase 178% to an estimated 78,300 deaths in 2030. During 2015-2030, there are projected to be nearly 800,000 excess liver deaths.


With continued high rates of adult obesity and DM along with an aging population, NAFLD-related liver disease and mortality will increase in the United States. Strategies to slow the growth of NAFLD cases and therapeutic options are necessary to mitigate disease burden. (Hepatology 2018;67:123-133).

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