Early interplay of intra-hepatic iron and insulin resistance in children with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Melania Manco, Anna Alisi, Jose Manuel Fernandez Real, Francesco Equitani, Rita Devito, Luca Valenti, Valerio Nobili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & Aims: The liver is a crucial organ at the crossroads of iron and glucose metabolism. The aim of the study was to assess intra-hepatic iron in young patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and its association with insulin resistance and severity of liver damage. Methods: Intrahepatic iron content was assessed (Pearl's stain grade) in 66 patients (41 males, age 3.3-17.6 years) with biopsy-proven NAFLD. Mutations of the Hereditary Hemochromatosis (HFE) gene were determined by sequence allele-specific polymerase chain reaction. Insulin resistance was estimated by means of the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test and the Insulin Sensitivity Index (ISI); the Insulino-Genic Index was also calculated. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6 were measured. Results: Low-mild intra-hepatic iron deposition was observed in one out of five children (n = 15, 22%), and it was not associated with HFE mutations, carried by 17 patients (26%). Among carriers of HFE mutations, four had siderosis. No abnormalities were observed in systemic indices of iron balance. Serum ferritin was within normal adult ranges in all patients (33.6 ± 7.6 ng/ml), but it was correlated with ISI (r o = -0.361; p = 0.003). No significant difference was observed in insulin sensitivity, iron balance, inflammatory milieu, and liver histology between patients with and without hepatic siderosis. Conclusions: In young obese individuals with NAFLD, despite normal peripheral iron parameters, mild intra-hepatic iron deposition is a frequent finding, but it is not associated with insulin resistance or severity of liver damage. Longitudinal studies are required to define the long-term relevance of these findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-653
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


  • Ferritin
  • Hepcidin
  • Hereditary hemocromatosis
  • Insulin resistance
  • Insulin secretion
  • Iron
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Non-alcoholic steato-hepatitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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