Liver fat accumulation more than fibrosis causes early liver dynamic dysfunction in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Agostino Di Ciaula, Harshitha Shanmugam, Rogério Ribeiro, Ana Pina, Rita Andrade, Leonilde Bonfrate, João F. Raposo, M. Paula Macedo, Piero Portincasa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: In Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), events driving early hepatic dysfunction with respect to specific metabolic pathways are still poorly known. Methods: We enrolled 84 subjects with obesity and/or type 2 diabetes (T2D). FibroScan® served to assess NAFLD by controlled attenuation parameter (CAP), and fibrosis by liver stiffness (LS). Patients with LS above 7 kPa were excluded. APRI and FIB-4 were used as additional serum biomarkers of fibrosis. The stable-isotope dynamic breath test was used to assess the hepatic efficiency of portal extraction (as DOB15) and microsomal metabolization (as cPDR30) of orally-administered (13C)-methacetin. Results: NAFLD occurred in 45%, 65.9%, and 91.3% of normal weight, overweight, and obese subjects, respectively. Biomarkers of liver fibrosis were comparable across subgroups, and LS was higher in obese, than in normal weight subjects. DOB15 was 23.2 ± 1.5‰ in normal weight subjects, tended to decrease in overweight (19.9 ± 1.0‰) and decreased significantly in obese subjects (16.9 ± 1.3, P = 0.008 vs. normal weight). Subjects with NAFLD had lower DOB15 (18.7 ± 0.9 vs. 22.1 ± 1.2, P = 0.03) but higher LS (4.7 ± 0.1 vs. 4.0 ± 0.2 kPa, P = 0.0003) than subjects without NAFLD, irrespective of fibrosis. DOB15 (but not cPDR30) decreased with increasing degree of NAFLD (R = −0.26; P = 0.01) and LS (R = −0.23, P = 0.03). Patients with T2D showed increased rate of NAFLD than those without T2D but similar LS, DOB15 and cPDR30. Conclusions: Overweight, obesity and liver fat accumulation manifest with deranged portal extraction efficiency of methacetin into the steatotic hepatocyte. This functional alteration occurs early, and irrespective of significant fibrosis and presence of T2D.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-59
JournalEuropean Journal Of Internal Medicine
Early online dateNov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Breath test
  • Fibroscan
  • Liver function
  • Liver steatosis
  • Liver stiffness
  • Metabolic-associated fatty liver disease
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease


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