The degree of hepatic steatosis associates with impaired cardiac and autonomic function

David Houghton, Pawel Zalewski, Kate Hallsworth, Sophie Cassidy, Christian Thoma, Leah Avery, Joanna Slomko, Timothy Hardy, Alastair Burt, Dina Tiniakos, Kieron Hollingsworth, Roy Taylor, Christopher Day, Steven Masson, Stuart McPherson, Quentin Anstee, Julia Newton, Michael Trenell

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Background & Aims: Cardiovascular disease is the principle cause of death in patients with elevated liver fat unrelated to alcohol consumption, more so than liver-related morbidity and mortality. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between liver fat and cardiac and autonomic function, as well as to assess how impairment in cardiac and autonomic function is influenced by metabolic risk factors. Methods: Cardiovascular and autonomic function were assessed in 96 sedentary individuals: i) non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) (n = 46, hepatic steatosis >5% by magnetic resonance spectroscopy), ii) Hepatic steatosis and alcohol (dual aetiology fatty liver disease [DAFLD]) (n = 16, hepatic steatosis >5%, consuming >20 g/day of alcohol) and iii) CONTROL (n = 34, no cardiac, liver or metabolic disorders, <20 g/day of alcohol). Results: Patients with NAFLD and DAFLD had significantly impaired cardiac and autonomic function when compared with controls. Diastolic variability and systolic variability (LF/HF-sBP [n/1]; 2.3 (1.7) and 2.3 (1.5) vs. 3.4 (1.5), p <0.01) were impaired in patients with NAFLD and DAFLD when compared to controls, with DAFLD individuals showing a decrease in diastolic variability relative to NAFLD patients. Hepatic steatosis and fasting glucose were negatively correlated with stroke volume index. Fibrosis stage was significantly negatively associated with mean blood pressure (r = −0.47, p = 0.02), diastolic variability (r = −0.58, p ≤0.01) and systolic variability (r = −0.42, p = 0.04). Hepatic steatosis was independently associated with cardiac function (p ≤0.01); TNF-α (p ≤0.05) and CK-18 (p ≤0.05) were independently associated with autonomic function. Conclusion: Cardiac and autonomic impairments appear to be dependent on level of liver fat, metabolic dysfunction, inflammation and fibrosis staging, and to a lesser extent alcohol intake. Interventions should be sought to moderate the excess cardiovascular risk in patients with NAFLD or DAFLD. Lay summary: Increased levels of fat in the liver impair the ability of the cardiovascular system to work properly. The amount of fat in the liver, metabolic control, inflammation and alcohol are all linked to the degree that the cardiovascular system is affected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1203-1213
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number6
Early online date13 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


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