Mitochondrial Dysfunction is a Key Pathway that Links Saturated Fat Intake to the Development and Progression of NAFLD

R.C.R. Meex*, E.E. Blaak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Non-Alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common form of liver disease and is characterized by fat accumulation in the liver. Hypercaloric diets generally increase hepatic fat accumulation, whereas hypocaloric diets decrease liver fat content. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that moderate amounts of unsaturated fatty acids seems to be protective for the development of a fatty liver, while consumption of saturated fatty acids (SFA) appears to predispose toward hepatic steatosis. Recent studies highlight a key role for mitochondrial dysfunction in the development and progression of NAFLD. It is proposed that changes in mitochondrial structure and function are key mechanisms by which SFA lead to the development and progression of NAFLD. In this review, it is described how SFA intake is associated with liver steatosis and decreases the efficiency of the respiratory transport chain. This results in the production of reactive oxygen species and damage to nearby structures, eventually leading to inflammation, apoptosis, and scarring of the liver. Furthermore, studies demonstrating that SFA intake affects the composition of mitochondrial membranes are presented, and this process accelerates the progression of NAFLD. It is likely that events are intertwined and reinforce each other, leading to a constant deterioration in health.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1900942
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Nutrition & Food Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • human intervention studies
  • mitochondrial dysfunction
  • non&#8208
  • alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • nutrition
  • saturated fatty acids


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