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Fructose and liver function--is this behind nonalcoholic liver disease?

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The purpose was to summarize recent advances in the understanding of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) pathophysiology and the role of fructose in NAFLD.

RECENT FINDINGS: Epidemiological studies continue to point to a strong association between high fructose intake and NAFLD and its severity. New studies of NAFLD reveal the importance of upregulated de novo lipogenesis as a key feature in its pathophysiology along with increased visceral adiposity and alteration of gut microbiome. Studies of fructose in NAFLD show how this nutrient may uniquely exacerbate the phenotype of NAFLD. The timing of exposure to fructose may be important with early (in utero) exposure being particularly harmful.

SUMMARY: Fructose is a potentially modifiable environmental exposure that appears to exacerbate NAFLD through multiple mechanisms. Although larger, longer clinical studies are still needed, it appears that limitation of fructose sources in the diet is beneficial in NAFLD.

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