Published online May 7, 2016. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v22.i17.4362
Peer-review started: December 20, 2016
First decision: January 13, 2016
Revised: February 9, 2016
Accepted: March 2, 2016
Article in press: March 2, 2016
Published online: May 7, 2016
AIM: To examine the association between non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and general health perception.
METHODS: This cross sectional and prospective follow-up study was performed on a cohort of a sub-sample of the first Israeli national health and nutrition examination survey, with no secondary liver disease or history of alcohol abuse. On the first survey, in 2003-2004, 349 participants were included. In 2009-2010 participants from the baseline survey were invited to participate in a follow-up survey. On both baseline and follow-up surveys the data collected included: self-reported general health perception, physical activity habits, frequency of physician's visits, fatigue impact scale and abdominal ultrasound. Fatty liver was diagnosed by abdominal ultrasonography using standardized criteria and the ratio between the median brightness level of the liver and the right kidney was calculated to determine the Hepato-Renal Index.
RESULTS: Out of 349 eligible participants in the first survey, 213 volunteers participated in the follow-up cohort and were included in the current analysis, NAFLD was diagnosed in 70/213 (32.9%). The prevalence of "very good" self-reported health perception was lower among participants diagnosed with NAFLD compared to those without NAFLD. However, adjustment for BMI attenuated the association (OR = 0.73, 95%CI: 0.36-1.50, P = 0.392). Similar results were observed for the hepato-renal index; it was inversely associated with "very good" health perception but adjustment for BMI attenuated the association. In a full model of multivariate analysis, that included all potential predictors for health perception, NAFLD was not associated with the self-reported general health perception (OR = 0.86, 95%CI: 0.40-1.86, P = 0.704). The odds for "very good" self-reported general health perception (compared to "else") increased among men (OR = 2.42, 95%CI: 1.26-4.66, P = 0.008) and those with higher performance of leisure time physical activity (OR = 1.01, 95%CI: 1.00-1.01, P < 0.001, per every minute/week) and decreased with increasing level of BMI (OR = 0.91, 95%CI: 0.84-0.99, P = 0.028, per every kg/m2) and older age (OR = 0.96, 95%CI: 0.93-0.99, P = 0.033, per one year). Current smoking was not associated with health perception (OR = 1.31, 95%CI: 0.54-3.16, P = 0.552). Newly diagnosed (naive) and previously diagnosed (at the first survey, not naive) NAFLD patients did not differ in their self-health perception. The presence of NAFLD at the first survey as compared to normal liver did not predict health perception deterioration at the 7 years follow-up. In terms of health-services utilization, subjects diagnosed with NAFLD had a similar number of physician’s visits (general physicians and specialty consultants) as in the normal liver group. Parameters in the fatigue impact scale were equivalent between the NAFLD and the normal liver groups.
CONCLUSION: Fatty liver without clinically significant liver disease does not have independent impact on self-health perception.
Core tip: In recent years there is overwhelming evidence that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a major public health concern; the most common chronic liver disorder globally and associated with hepatic and extrahepatic morbidity and mortality. However, this study demonstrates that NAFLD diagnosis among a general population is not independently associated with lower general health perception nor is it associated with higher health care utilization. Moreover, NAFLD does not seem to predict health perception deterioration over the years. These findings imply that in the general population, NAFLD is not considered a disease in the eyes of the NAFLD beholder, probably until an advanced stage.