Approximately 30 percent of American adults are affected by non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver develops because the liver has difficulty breaking down fats, causing a buildup in the tissue and hampering its functions.

Approximately 30 percent of American adults are affected by non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Of this number, approximately 20 percent have developed progressive non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which may lead to cirrhosis. Groups more prone to NASH include obese men with type 2 diabetes, Asians, South Sea Islanders and Latin Americans. Genetics may be another factor in the rapid development of NASH.

Patients with NAFLD may also have:

  • Insulin resistance: Diminishment of the cells’ ability to respond to insulin when insulin transports glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into muscle and other tissues
  • High levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood
  • Low levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, in your blood
  • Too much fat around your waist
  • High blood pressure


Pinpointing NAFLD can be difficult since most diagnoses are incidental. Other causes of fatty liver, such as alcohol, drugs, or congenital disorders, like glycogen storage disease or growth hormone deficiency, must be excluded before treatment is given for NASH.
Fatty liver may be discovered by:
  • A mild increase in liver size noted on a on a physical exam, calling for more tests.
  • An elevation of liver enzymes found on a routine laboratory blood test.
  • Imaging procedures, including ultrasound, CT scan and MRI which help provide a definitive diagnosis.
  • Liver tissue testing when more serious liver problems are suspected. Your doctor may remove a sample of tissue from your liver (biopsy) to look for signs of inflammation and scarring.
  • As an incidental finding on imaging studies obtained for unrelated medical reasons.


Patients with simple fatty liver can have a normal life span, with no need for specific focus on the liver. However, NASH patients have a potentially progressive disease, which requires long-term follow up care.
Dietary management for NAFLD and obesity in general has been extremely controversial, with studies often showing varying results. However, most physicians agree that weight loss as well as aerobic/anaerobic exercise do help. Medication to promote weight loss is sometimes used and for some patients, bariatric surgery can be very effective.

Why Choose Ohio State

Why seek treatment at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center?

In 2014, Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center received the "2014 Gastrointestinal Care Excellence Award" from Healthgrades, the leading online resource for information about physicians and hospitals. The award recognizes hospitals for superior outcomes in bowel obstruction treatment, colorectal surgeries, gallbladder removal, esophageal/stomach surgeries, treatment of gastrointestinal bleeds, treatment for pancreatitis, and small intestine surgeries. Patients who have these treatments or surgeries at these nationally recognized hospitals have a lower risk of dying or experiencing a complication during their hospital stay.

At Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, we are working on developing practical, noninvasive protocols to identify patients with fatty liver disease; to differentiate simple fatty liver from NASH; and to monitor treatment as well as potential new modalities for same. In addition to offering a new MRI program that exclusively measures liver triglycerides and thus liver fat, we are investigating another MRI technique that measures liver fibrosis to help identify patients with progressive NASH.

Clinical Trials

Currently the GHN Division is awaiting IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval for a clinical study that would validate a cost-effective, noninvasive way of monitoring fatty liver to help with treatment. IRB reviews involve research with human subjects, protecting their rights and welfare.


For more 20 years, Ohio State’s weight management program has helped people improve their lives. Our program results have consistently ranked above the National Institutes for Health’s expected weight loss average. Our medically-managed weight loss programs are conveniently located at
Ohio State's Center for Wellness and Prevention, which has a fitness center and classes. We offer several different weight management programs to meet your lifestyle and goals.


Ohio State's Tailored Patient Approach to Fatty Liver Disease

Treatment of Fatty Liver Disease, Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

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