This review summarizes our current understanding of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a multi-factorial systemic disease resulting from a complex interaction between a specific genetic background and multiple environmental/metabolic “hits”. The role of gut microbiota, lipotoxicity, inflammation and their molecular pathways is reviewed in-depth. We also discuss the epidemiology and natural history of NAFLD by pinpointing the remarkably high prevalence of NAFLD worldwide and its inherent systemic complications: hepatic (steatohepatitis, advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis), cardio-metabolic (cardiovascular disease, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias and type 2 diabetes) and neoplastic (primary liver cancers and extra-hepatic cancers). Moreover, we critically report on the diagnostic role of non-invasive biomarkers, imaging techniques and liver biopsy, which remains the reference standard for diagnosing the disease, but cannot be proposed to all patients with suspected NAFLD. Finally, the management of NAFLD is also reviewed, by highlighting the lifestyle changes and the pharmacological options, with a focus on the innovative drugs. We conclude that the results of ongoing studies are eagerly expected to lead to introduce into the clinical arena new diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers, prevention and surveillance strategies as well as to new drugs for a tailored approach to the management of NAFLD in the individual patient.
- Natural history
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