Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver disease in the West, and is also increasing alarmingly in South Asia, reaching an epidemic proportion of 30% because of epidemic of obesity and metabolic syndrome (MS) in younger South Asians in the last two decades. Prevalence of MS and fatty liver is escalating in geometric progression in South Asian countries, such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, and Maldives because of sedentary lifestyle, poor health awareness, socioeconomic growth, affluence, urbanization, and dietary westernization. Almost 20% of world’s population resides in South Asia, making it the most populous and most densely populated geographic region in the world, thereby having most of MS and NAFLD cases within its territory. The risk factors and course of NAFLD do not differ between South Asians and other ethnic populations, but the obesity epidemic is more recent in South Asia than elsewhere in the world. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease may progress through stages of simple bland steatosis, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), hepatic fibrosis, cirrhosis, and finally hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). It is frequently associated with obesity, MS, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance (IR), and type-2 diabetes mellitus (DM). Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is frequently diagnosed with abdominal ultrasonography (US) study. Despite its high prevalence in the community till now, no definitive pharmacotherapy is available for NAFLD. However, modification of risk factors, such as dyslipidemia, control of diabetes, and weight reduction do help to some extent. The nonobese South Asians are also at increased risk of having NAFLD and NASH as, despite of absence of frank obesity in South Asians, they are metabolically more obese compared to other ethnic population and more prone to develop NAFLD-related complications. Therefore, the cost-effective US abdomen should be included in the list of tests for persons undergoing preemployment or master health checkups for early diagnosis of NAFLD in this resource-constraint South Asian region, so that early necessary measures can be undertaken to reduce NAFLD associated morbidity and mortality in the community.
Keywords: Fatty liver, Hepatocellular carcinoma, Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, Physical activity, South Asia.
How to cite this article: Pati GK, Singh SP. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in South Asia. Euroasian J Hepato-Gastroenterol 2016;6(2):154-162.
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Conflict of interest: None