Metabolic risk factors have been shown to be associated with severe liver disease (SLD) in Chinese populations. However, there is limited evidence on the combined impact of these factors, or the genetic variants associated with SLD.
We examined the associations of combined metabolic risk factors with risks of SLD, both overall and by genetic predisposition to SLD.
The study population involved 486,828 participants of the prospective China Kadoorie Biobank aged 30-79 years from 10 diverse areas in China without a history of cancer or liver disease at baseline. Cox regression was used to estimate adjusted HRs for SLD associated with combined metabolic risk factors (central adiposity, physical inactivity, and diabetes) by stratum of genetic risk [assessed separately by a PNPLA3 variant (rs738409) and a BMI genetic risk score].
During ∼10 years of follow-up, 3279 incident cases of SLD were recorded. The overall mean BMI was 23.8 kg/m2 (SD, 3.4 kg/m2), and 5.9% participants had diabetes. Compared with those with 3 metabolic factors, participants with 2, 1, and 0 metabolic factors had 31% (HR, 0.69; 95% CI: 0.65-0.73), 43% (HR, 0.57; 95% CI: 0.53-0.60), and 52% (HR, 0.48; 95% CI: 0.42-0.56) lower risks of SLD, respectively. For both BMI and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease variants, participants with fewer metabolic factors had a lower risk of SLD, lower levels of gamma-glutamyl transferase, and lower fatty liver index scores, in participants with low and high genetic risks (P value for interaction > 0.05).
In relatively lean Chinese adults, individuals with fewer metabolic risk factors had a lower relative risk of SLD and a more favorable profile of liver biomarkers across all strata of genetic risk.

© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition.