NAFLD is increasingly prevalent in Asia, where people suffer more metabolic comorbidities at a lower body mass index (BMI), suggesting potential differences in their clinical profile. Therefore, we attempted to characterize the clinical profile of Asians with NAFLD via a meta-analytic approach.
We searched Pubmed, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases from January 1, 2000 to January 17, 2019. Two authors independently reviewed and selected 104 articles (2,247,754 persons) that identified NAFLD in Asians and reported relevant data, especially BMI and ALT, and excluded individuals with other liver disease and excessive alcohol consumption. Individual patient-level data were obtained from seven cohorts in Asia to complement meta-analyzed data.
Overall, the mean age was 52.07 (95%CI:51.28-52.85) years with those from Southeast Asia (42.66, 95%CI: 32.23-53.11) being significantly younger. The mean BMI was 26.2 kg/m2, higher in moderate-severe vs. mild hepatic steatosis (28.3 vs. 25.7) patients and NFS ≥-1.455 vs. <-1.455 (27.09 vs. 26.02), with 34% having non-obese NAFLD. The mean ALT was 31.74 U/L, higher in NFS <-1.455 vs. ≥-1.455 (33.74 vs. 27.83), though no differences were found by obesity or steatosis severity. The majority of males (85.7%) and females (60.7%) had normal to minimally elevated ALT (1-1.5x 95% ULN). Individual patient-level data analysis (N=7,668) demonstrated similar results.
About one-third of Asians with NAFLD were non-obese and the majority did not have markedly elevated ALT. Therefore, abnormal ALT or BMI are not recommended as a criterion for NAFLD screening in this population. Additionally, there were significant differences in the clinical profiles of NAFLD among the different regions of Asia.

The Author(s). Published by S. Karger AG, Basel.