School of Medicine Publications and Presentations

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Background and purpose

Prior studies reported conflicting findings regarding the association of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and liver fibrosis with measures of brain health. We examined whether NAFLD and liver fibrosis are associated with structural brain imaging measures in middle- and old-age adults.


In this cross-sectional study among dementia- and stroke-free individuals, data were pooled from the Offspring and Third Generation cohorts of the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), the Rotterdam Study (RS), and the Study of Health in Pomerania. NAFLD was assessed through abdominal imaging. Transient hepatic elastography (FibroScan) was used to assess liver fibrosis in FHS and RS. Linear regression models were used to explore the relation of NAFLD and liver fibrosis with brain volumes, including total brain, gray matter, hippocampus, and white matter hyperintensities, adjusting for potential confounders. Results were combined using fixed effects meta-analysis.


In total, 5660 and 3022 individuals were included for NAFLD and liver fibrosis analyses, respectively. NAFLD was associated with smaller volumes of total brain (β = −3.5, 95% confidence interval [CI] = −5.4 to −1.7), total gray matter (β = −1.9, 95% CI = −3.4 to −0.3), and total cortical gray matter (β = −1.9, 95% CI = −3.7 to −0.01). In addition, liver fibrosis (defined as liver stiffness measure ≥8.2 kPa) was related to smaller total brain volumes (β = −7.3, 95% CI = −11.1 to −3.5). Heterogeneity between studies was low.


NAFLD and liver fibrosis may be directly related to brain aging. Larger and prospective studies are warranted to validate these findings and identify liver-related preventive strategies for neurodegeneration.


© 2023 The Authors. European Journal of Neurology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Academy of Neurology.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Publication Title

European journal of neurology



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Mentor/PI Department

Office of Human Genetics

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Neurology Commons



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