Body mass index trajectories in young adulthood predict non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in middle age: The CARDIA cohort study

Lisa B. VanWagner, Sadiya S. Khan, Hongyan Ning, Juned Siddique, Cora E. Lewis, John J. Carr, Miriam B. Vos, Elizabeth Speliotes, Norah A. Terrault, Mary E. Rinella, Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, Norrina B. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is an epidemic. Identifying modifiable risk factors for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease development is essential to design effective prevention programmes. We tested whether 25-year patterns of body mass index change are associated with midlife non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Methods: In all, 4423 participants from Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults, a prospective population-based biracial cohort (age 18-30), underwent body mass index measurement at baseline (1985-1986) and 3 or more times over 25 years. At Year 25, 3115 had liver fat assessed by non-contrast computed tomography. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease was defined as liver attenuation ≤40 Hounsfield Units after exclusions. Latent mixture modelling identified 25-year trajectories in body mass index per cent change (%Δ) from baseline. Results: We identified four distinct trajectories of BMI%Δ: stable (26.2% of cohort, 25-year BMI %Δ = 3.1%), moderate increase (46.0%, BMI%Δ = 21.7%), high increase (20.9%, BMI%Δ = 41.9%) and extreme increase (6.9%, BMI%Δ = 65.9%). Y25 non-alcoholic fatty liver disease prevalence was higher in groups with greater BMI %Δ: 4.1%, 9.3%, 13.0%, and 17.6%, respectively (P-trend <.0001). In multivariable analyses, participants with increasing BMI%Δ had increasingly greater odds of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease compared to the stable group: OR: 3.35 (95% CI: 2.07-5.42), 7.80 (4.60-13.23) and 12.68 (6.68-24.09) for moderate, high and extreme body mass index increase, respectively. Associations were only moderately attenuated when adjusted for baseline or Y25 body mass index. Conclusions: Trajectories of weight gain during young adulthood are associated with greater non-alcoholic fatty liver disease prevalence in midlife independent of metabolic covariates and baseline or concurrent body mass index highlighting the importance of weight maintenance throughout adulthood as a target for primary non-alcoholic fatty liver disease prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)706-714
Number of pages9
JournalLiver International
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • NASH
  • obesity
  • prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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