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Glycemic Control Predicts Severity of Hepatocyte Ballooning and Hepatic Fibrosis in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

Alexopoulos AS, Crowley MJ, Wang Y, Moylan CA, Guy CD, Henao R, Piercy DL, Seymour KA, Sudan R, Portenier DD, Diehl AM, Coviello AD, Abdelmalek MF. Glycemic Control Predicts Severity of Hepatocyte Ballooning and Hepatic Fibrosis in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.). 2021 Sep 1; 74(3):1220-1233.

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BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Whether glycemic control, as opposed to diabetes status, is associated with the severity of NAFLD is open for study. We aimed to evaluate whether degree of glycemic control in the years preceding liver biopsy predicts the histological severity of NASH. APPROACH AND RESULTS: Using the Duke NAFLD Clinical Database, we examined patients with biopsy-proven NAFLD/NASH (n  =  713) and the association of liver injury with glycemic control as measured by hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). The study cohort was predominantly female (59%) and White (84%) with median (interquartile range) age of 50 (42, 58) years; 49% had diabetes (n  =  348). Generalized linear regression models adjusted for age, sex, race, diabetes, body mass index, and hyperlipidemia were used to assess the association between mean HbA1c over the year preceding liver biopsy and severity of histological features of NAFLD/NASH. Histological features were graded and staged according to the NASH Clinical Research Network system. Group-based trajectory analysis was used to examine patients with at least three HbA1c (n  =  298) measures over 5 years preceding clinically indicated liver biopsy. Higher mean HbA1c was associated with higher grade of steatosis and ballooned hepatocytes, but not lobular inflammation. Every 1% increase in mean HbA1c was associated with 15% higher odds of increased fibrosis stage (OR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.01, 1.31). As compared with good glycemic control, moderate control was significantly associated with increased severity of ballooned hepatocytes (OR, 1.74; 95% CI, 1.01, 3.01; P  =  0.048) and hepatic fibrosis (HF; OR, 4.59; 95% CI, 2.33, 9.06; P  <  0.01). CONCLUSIONS: Glycemic control predicts severity of ballooned hepatocytes and HF in NAFLD/NASH, and thus optimizing glycemic control may be a means of modifying risk of NASH-related fibrosis progression.

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