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NAFLD vs MAFLD: could a name change impact the progression of liver disease research?

  • Date 27 Apr 2021

Liver disease is a serious worldwide problem linked to approximately two million deaths per year and in many cases is entirely preventable (Sumeet et al, 2019). One of the most common causes of chronic liver disease is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which affects one billion people and is a major cause of liver-related morbidity and mortality (Younossi, 2020).

NAFLD was termed in the early 1980’s for a group of patients that showed characteristics of alcoholic fatty liver disease but denied excessive alcohol consumption (Fouad et al, 2020). Since then, an improved understanding of the disease has encouraged calls to change the nomenclature to “metabolic associated fatty liver disease” (MAFLD), in an attempt to better reflect its underlying pathology. However, this proposed change has been met with some hesitation. This area of scientific discussion is particularly of interest to innovators in liver research whose goal is to improve the lives of millions of liver patients across the world. Ultimately, the question is, what’s in the name? Is it important and if so, which name, NAFLD or MAFLD better serves the field to achieve their goals?

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