Journal of hepatology

Cholesterol synthesis is increased and absorption decreased in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease independent of obesity.

PMID 20947198


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is associated with impaired glucose and lipoprotein metabolism. However, the metabolism of cholesterol in NAFLD remains unexplored. We investigated how fatty liver influences cholesterol metabolism in 242 non-diabetic subjects. Liver fat content was measured with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Cholesterol metabolism was assayed with serum non-cholesterol sterols, surrogate markers of cholesterol synthesis and absorption. The analyses were performed with gas-liquid chromatography. A total of 114 subjects had NAFLD and 128 subjects had normal liver fat content. Non-cholesterol sterols reflecting cholesterol synthesis (cholestenol, desmosterol, and lathosterol) were higher, and those reflecting cholesterol absorption (cholestanol and plant sterols) were lower in subjects with NAFLD than in controls, independent of body mass index. Liver fat content was positively associated with markers of cholesterol synthesis (r = from 0.262 to 0.344, p < 0.001 for all) and inversely associated with markers of cholesterol absorption (r = from -0.299 to -0.336, p < 0.001 for all). In the entire study group, synthesis and absorption markers were interrelated, indicating that the homeostasis of cholesterol metabolism was maintained. LDL cholesterol was similar in the two groups. We demonstrated that although LDL cholesterol concentrations are unchanged, cholesterol metabolism in NAFLD is characterized by increased synthesis and diminished absorption of cholesterol. These changes are associated with liver fat content independent of body weight.

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