NAFLD name change: Requiem or Reveille?

Rather than changing the nomenclature without a strong scientific backing to support such a change, efforts should be directed at understanding NAFLD pathogenesis across diverse populations and ethnicities which could potentially help develop newer therapeutic options.
PUBLISHED IN: J Clin Transl Hepatol 2021

“Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affects about a quarter of the world’s population and poses a major health and economic burden globally. Recently, there have been hasty attempts to rename NAFLD to metabolic-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) despite the fact that there is no scientific rationale for this. Quest for a “positive criterion” to diagnose the disease and destigmatizing the disease have been the main reasons put forth for the name change. A close scrutiny of the pathogenesis of NAFLD would make it clear that NAFLD is a heterogeneous disorder, involving different pathogenic mechanisms of which metabolic dysfunction-driven hepatic steatosis is only one. Replacing NAFLD with MAFLD would neither enhance the legitimacy of clinical practice and clinical trials, nor improve clinical care or move NAFLD research forward. Rather than changing the nomenclature without a strong scientific backing to support such a change, efforts should be directed at understanding NAFLD pathogenesis across diverse populations and ethnicities which could potentially help develop newer therapeutic options.”

Commentary

There have been several arguments put forward by the proponents of MAFLD in favour of a name change. The objections to NAFLD are that NAFLD should be defined by inclusion rather than by exclusion, the heterogeneity of NAFLD implies that it is difficult to manage it as a single entity, and the effects of non-significant amounts of alcohol consumed by NAFLD patients on hepatic steatosis have not yet been clearly defined.
The diagnosis of MAFLD requires radiological evidence of hepatic steatosis and the presence of any one of the following three conditions: overweight/obesity, presence of diabetes mellitus, or evidence of metabolic dysregulation. In fact, in their algorithm, the diagnosis of MAFLD is essentially identical to the diagnosis of NAFLD.

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Dr. D. Beard

Dr. D. Beard

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