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What is metabolic associated fatty liver disease?

Metabolic associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and a common type of liver cancer. More than 5.5 million Australians are, or have been, affected by liver disease, including MAFLD. If left unchecked, it can lead to liver cancer and failure. In fact, MAFLD is expected to become the leading cause of liver transplant within the next 20 years.

It used to be known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease but with advances in current knowledge of fatty liver diseases, it became apparent the term could no longer be used to describe a disease with several root causes. The disease not only impacts patients who consume alcohol and those who do not, but also potentially impacts all patients with any form of liver disease by acting as a disease modifier.

Currently, lifestyle intervention is the frontline treatment for both obesity and MAFLD however, only a small proportion of people successfully manage their condition with lifestyle alone. And when it comes to diagnosis, few effective non-invasive diagnostic and prognostic tools exist for this disease. It is also confounded by statistics that show around 40 per cent of people who have MAFLD are not overweight. Early detection is critical to preventing subsequent complications, however more than 80% of MAFLD patients have few symptoms and fail to visit their doctor until their disease has progressed to a stage that is mostly irreversible. As for treatment, there are currently no clinically approved pharmacological treatments specifically for metabolic associated fatty liver disease. That’s why the work of Associate Professor Brian Drew and his team is so important. They hope to establish why some people are more prone to fatty liver disease than others.

Video: Associate Professor Brian Drew explains what MAFLD is (1min 11sec)

Am I at risk of metabolic associated fatty liver disease?

You are at risk of metabolic associated fatty liver disease if you:

  • are overweight*
  • have diabetes
  • have elevated triglyceride levels.

* Although 40% of people who have this disease are not overweight.

For more risk factors, visit:

If you are worried about metabolic associated fatty liver disease, please discuss with your GP.