Fatty liver may impose diabetes risk

NEW YORK — Over the years, a fatty liver has become an indicator of obesity and insulin resistance among humans, but researchers have found that people with fatty livers are five times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than their healthier counterparts.

In a new study slated for publication in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers examined 11,091 Koreans with fasting insulin concentration, a marker of insulin resistance, and diagnosed the subjects with a fatty liver via an abdominal ultrasound. At baseline, 27% of the population had been diagnosed with having fatty liver.

The researchers followed up after five years of the initial examination and found that regardless of baseline insulin concentration, patients with fatty livers had significantly more metabolic abnormalities, including higher glucose and triglyceride concentration and lower HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels. They concluded that patients with fatty livers were five times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

"We believe that a diagnosis of fatty liver should raise an alarm for impending Type 2 diabetes," said Sun Kim of Stanford University and senior author of the study. "Our study shows that fatty liver, as diagnosed by ultrasound, strongly predicts the development of Type 2 diabetes, regardless of insulin concentration."

"Our study shows in a large population of relatively healthy individuals that identifying fatty liver by ultrasound predicts the development of Type 2 diabetes in five years," Kim added. "In addition, our findings reveal a complex relationship between baseline fatty liver and fasting insulin concentration."

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