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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease encompasses a spectrum of conditions from hepatic steatosis through to cirrhosis; obesity is a known risk factor. The liver plays a major role in regulating fatty acid metabolism and perturbations in intrahepatic processes have potential to impact on metabolic health. It remains unclear why intra-hepatocellular fat starts to accumulate, but it likely involves an imbalance between fatty acid delivery to the liver, fatty acid synthesis and oxidation within the liver and TAG export from the liver. As man spends the majority of the day in a postprandial rather than postabsorptive state, dietary fatty acid intake should be taken into consideration when investigating why intra-hepatic fat starts to accumulate. This review will discuss the impact of the quantity and quality of dietary fatty acids on liver fat accumulation and metabolism, along with some of the potential mechanisms involved. Studies investigating the role of dietary fat in liver fat accumulation, although surprisingly limited, have clearly demonstrated that it is total energy intake, rather than fat intake per se, that is a key mediator of liver fat content; hyperenergetic diets increase liver fat whilst hypoenergetic diets decrease liver fat content irrespective of total fat content. Moreover, there is now, albeit limited evidence emerging to suggest the composition of dietary fat may also play a role in liver fat accumulation, with diets enriched in saturated fat appearing to increase liver fat content to a greater extent when compared with diets enriched in unsaturated fats.

Original publication




Journal article


The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Publication Date



1 - 12


Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism,University of Oxford,Churchill Hospital,Oxford, OX3 7LE,UK.