Purpose of review
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common comorbidity and has wide ranging extrahepatic manifestations, including through cardiometabolic pathways. As such, there is growing interest in the impact of NAFLD on cerebrovascular disease and brain health more broadly. In this review, we assess recent research into understanding the association between NAFLD and brain health while highlighting potential clinical implications.
Mechanistically, NAFLD is characterized by both a proinflammatory and proatherogenic state, which results in vascular inflammation and neurodegeneration, potentially leading to clinical and subclinical cerebrovascular disease. Mounting epidemiological evidence suggests an association between NAFLD and an increased risk and severity of stroke, independent of other vascular risk factors. Studies also implicate NAFLD in subclinical cerebrovascular disease, such as carotid atherosclerosis and microvascular disease. In contrast, there does not appear to be an independent association between NAFLD and cognitive impairment.
The current literature supports the formulation of NAFLD as a multisystem disease that may also have implications for cerebrovascular disease and brain health. Further prospective studies are needed to better assess a temporal relationship between the two diseases, confirm these early findings, and decipher mechanistic links.