MONDAY, May 16, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) but a normal body mass index are more likely to have cardiovascular disease than those who are overweight or obese, according to a study presented at the 2022 Digestive Disease Week, held from May 21 to 24 in San Diego.

Karn Wijarnpreecha, M.D., from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues retrospectively used electronic health record data from 10,220 adults diagnosed with NAFLD between Jan. 1, 2012, and Feb. 28, 2021, to compare the prevalence of cirrhosis, cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases (diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, and hypertension), and chronic kidney disease among lean, overweight, and obese patients with NAFLD.

The researchers found that compared with nonlean patients, lean patients had a lower prevalence of cirrhosis, diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia, but a higher prevalence of peripheral vascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and any cardiovascular disease. When controlling for age, sex, race, smoking status, diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia, lean patients with NAFLD had a significantly higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease than overweight and obese patients. Among obese patients, there was a trend toward a higher prevalence of cirrhosis.

“Too often, we overlook NAFLD patients with a normal body mass index because we assume their risk for more serious conditions is lower than those who are overweight,” Wijarnpreecha said in a statement. “But this way of thinking may be putting these patients at risk.”

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