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Significant non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is found in non-diabetic, pre-obese Chinese in Singapore.

INTRODUCTION: To characterise the anthropometrical and metabolic parameters of a group of non-diabetic and non-obese patients who had histologically-proven nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

METHODS: During September 1997 to November 1999, consent for liver biopsies were sought from a consecutive series of patients, whose body mass index (BMI) were equal to or less than 30 kg per square metres, and who had persistently elevated serum alanine transaminase (more than 2.5 times upper limit of normal for more than six months), with no associated viral hepatitis, alcohol or drug-induced liver disease, hereditary liver disease and diabetes mellitus. Patients who were found to have steatohepatitis histologically were further studied. Their body weight, height, waist and hip circumferences were taken, and fasting serum lipid and glucose measured. Serum insulin was measured in six patients and insulin resistance (IR) was calculated by homeostasis model assessment. Oral glucose tolerance tests were done if fasting glucose levels were greater than 6 mmol/L. All liver biopsies were reviewed by a single histopathologist. Three age- and sex-matched controls were randomly selected for each patient.

RESULTS: 11 of 12 patients who underwent liver biopsies were found to have NASH. All 11 were Chinese: eight males and three females. 73 percent of them had hepatic fibrosis. Overall, compared to controls, they had significantly higher body weight, BMI, IR and triglyceridaemia. The female patients also had a higher waist-hip ratio than controls. None had diabetes mellitus, and one had impaired glucose tolerance/fasting glycaemia. Nine out of 11 had BMI between 25 and 30 kg per square metres.

CONCLUSION: Significant histological changes of NASH with hepatic fibrosis were found in Singaporean Chinese non-diabetic patients with BMI of less than 30 kg per square metres.

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