Both conditions are characterised by excessive fat deposition and are exacerbated by metabolic comorbidities, including insulin resistance. Indeed, NAFLD’s bidirectional association with type 2 diabetes and obesity is well-characterised, and fatty pancreas is estimated to affect one-third of patients with metabolic syndrome. Importantly, growing evidence suggests that excessive lipid storage in pancreatic tissue may directly contribute to intrahepatic fat accumulation, thereby accelerating the progression of NAFLD.
This meta-analysis aimed to examine the relationship between NAFLD and pancreatic steatosis.
NAFLD was found to be significantly associated with a 6.18-fold increase in the odds of developing fatty pancreas. Similarly, the presence of pancreatic steatosis was significantly associated with a 9.56-fold increase in the odds of having NAFLD. This bidirectional relationship is attributable to the organ and metabolic crosstalk between the liver and pancreas. Lastly, the presence of fatty pancreas was associated with a 1.75-fold increase in the risk of severe NAFLD based on ultrasonographic classification. Importantly, however, no significant link was found between pancreatic steatosis and increased risks of developing NASH and advanced fibrosis in patients with NAFLD. Further research is needed to investigate the pathophysiological mechanisms underpinning both conditions’ bidirectional association.