Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: A main driver of insulin resistance or a dangerous liaison?

N. Gruben, R. Shiri-Sverdlov, D.P. Koonen, M. Hofker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Insulin resistance is one of the key components of the metabolic syndrome and it eventually leads to the development of type 2 diabetes, making it one of the biggest medical problems of modern society. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) are tightly associated with insulin resistance. While it is fairly clear that insulin resistance causes hepatic steatosis, it is not known if NAFLD causes insulin resistance. Hepatic inflammation and lipid accumulation are believed to be the main drivers of hepatic insulin resistance in NAFLD. Here we give an overview of the evidence linking hepatic lipid accumulation to the development of insulin resistance, including the accumulation of triacylglycerol and lipid metabolites, such as diacylglycerol and ceramides. In particular, we discuss the role of obesity in this relation by reviewing the current evidence in terms of the reported changes in body weight and/or adipose tissue mass. We further discuss whether the activation or inhibition of inflammatory pathways, Kupffer cells and other immune cells influences the development of insulin resistance. We show that, in contrast to what is commonly believed, neither hepatic steatosis nor hepatic inflammation is sufficient to cause insulin resistance. Many studies show that obesity cannot be ignored as an underlying factor in this relationship and NAFLD is therefore less likely to be one of the main drivers of insulin resistance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2329-2343
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta-Molecular Basis of Disease
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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