BACKGROUND: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common type of liver disease, but it is difficult to distinguish its pathogenic phenotype, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), from nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) without a liver biopsy. We analyzed serum lipids, including low-density lipoprotein triglyceride (LDL-TG), to elucidate their usefulness for diagnosing NASH. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Serum samples obtained from 35 NASH and 9 NAFL biopsy-confirmed patients and 6 healthy volunteers (HLT) were studied for 13 lipid-related markers and compared between HLT, NAFL, and NASH groups. The relationship between histological findings and the lipid markers was also analyzed. RESULTS: There were significant differences in triglyceride, LDL-TG, the ratio of LDL-TG to the LDL-cholesterol (LDL-TG/LDL-C), small dense LDL-C, and apolipoprotein E between the three groups. Among the 5 lipid components, serum LDL-TG level and the ratio of LDL-TG to the LDL-cholesterol (LDL-TG/LDL-C) were significantly elevated in NASH. The median concentrations of LDL-TG in HLT, NAFL, and NASH were 9, 15, and 20 mg/dL (P < 0.001), and those of LDL-TG/LDL-C were 0.097, 0.102, and 0.173 (P < 0.001), respectively. Although the degree of steatosis was not correlated with the LDL-TG/LDL-C, the ratio was significantly higher in patients with lobular inflammation (P = 0.071), ballooning (P = 0.031), and fibrosis (P < 0.001). The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of the ratio for distinguishing NASH from NAFL was 0.857. The rest of studied markers showed no significant utility. CONCLUSION: Serum LDL-TG levels and the LDL-TG/LDL-C ratio might serve as simple and noninvasive diagnostic biomarkers for NASH.
- low-density lipoprotein triglyceride
- nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
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