Skip to navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer

Approved Research

Understanding the association between skeletal muscle, fat and liver diseases, and the role of genetic and lifestyle factors

Principal Investigator: Professor Robin Daly
Approved Research ID: 73818
Approval date: August 31st 2021

Lay summary

Obesity is a recognised risk factor in the development of non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition where there is excessive accumulation of fat in the liver. More recently studies have shown that people with NAFLD often have low muscle mass, muscle weakness and/or impaired physical function, a condition referred to as sarcopenia, which has been related to liver disease progression. At present, our understanding of the proportion of people with NAFLD that have sarcopenia (beyond low muscle mass alone), or sarcopenia combined with obesity (referred to as sarcopenic obesity), and the risk factors and consequences associated with these conditions in this population, is limited due in part to the lack of consensus on how best to diagnose and assess sarcopenia. In this study, we will: 1) determine the proportion of people with NAFLD that have sarcopenia and sarcopenic obesity in comparison to those without NAFLD using current diagnostic criteria for sarcopenia that incorporate the use of different assessment methods to quantify low muscle mass; 2) look at the associations between different body composition phenotypes (measures of muscle and fat) and how they relate to the risk of NAFLD; 3) examine what factors may be related to sarcopenia and sarcopenic obesity in people with and without NAFLD. This will include demographic, biological, genetic and lifestyle factors; 4) to look at the relationship between specific dietary components and patterns and physical activity alone and in combination on body composition in people with and without NAFLD, and 5) to identify discernible clusters (patterns) of lifestyle behaviours and their association with body composition, NAFLD, bone mineral density, falls, fractures and mortality. We believe that this body of work will help healthcare professionals understand the important role of different measures of body composition on disease risk and better identify those with fatty liver disease at increased risk of sarcopenia to enable early intervention. This study will also lead to improved knowledge on the role of modifiable lifestyle and health behaviours that can be used to optimise body composition in people with or at risk of NAFLD, to improve prevention and management approaches in the future.