BACKGROUND: Statin use could benefit patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), but the evidence is segmented and inconclusive. This multidimensional study comprehensively investigated the potential benefits and mechanism-of-action of statins in NAFLD.
METHODS: A cross-sectional investigation was performed within the Rotterdam Study (general population; n = 4.576) and the PERSONS cohort (biopsy-proven NAFLD patients; n = 569). Exclusion criteria were secondary causes for steatosis and insufficient data on alcohol, dyslipidemia or statin use. Associations of statin use with NAFLD (among entire general population), fibrosis and NASH (among NAFLD individuals and patients) were quantified. These results were pooled with available literature in meta-analysis. Last, we assessed statins' anti-lipid and anti-inflammatory effects in 3D cultured human liver organoids and THP-1 macrophages, respectively.
FINDINGS: Statin use was inversely associated with NAFLD in the Rotterdam study compared to participants with untreated dyslipidemia. In the PERSONS cohort, statin use was inversely associated with NASH, but not with fibrosis. The meta-analysis included 7 studies and indicated a not significant inverse association for statin use with NAFLD (pooled-Odds Ratio: 0.69, 95% Confidence Interval: 0.46-1.01) and significant inverse associations with NASH (pooled-OR: 0.59, 95% CI: 0.44-0.79) and fibrosis (pooled-OR: 0.48, 95% CI: 0.33-0.70). In vitro, statins significantly reduced lipid droplet accumulation in human liver organoids and downregulated expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines in macrophages.
INTERPRETATION: Pooled results demonstrated that statin use was associated with a lower prevalence of NASH and fibrosis and might prevent NAFLD. This may be partially attributed to the anti-lipid and anti-inflammatory characteristics of statins. Given their under-prescription, adequate prescription of statins may limit the disease burden of NAFLD.
FUNDING: ZonMw, KWF, NWO, SLO, DGXII, RIDE, National and regional government, Erasmus MC and Erasmus University.
This research was supported by a VIDI grant (No. 91719300) from the
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), a Young
Investigator Grant (No. 10140) by the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF), and
the Foundation for Liver and Gastrointestinal Research, Rotterdam, the
Netherlands (SLO). The Rotterdam study is funded by the Erasmus
Medical Center and Erasmus University (Rotterdam, Netherlands); the
Organization for the Health Research and Development (ZonMw); the Research Institute for Diseases in the Elderly (RIDE); the Ministry of
Education, Culture and Science; the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Sports (National Government); the European Commission (DG XII); the
Municipality of Rotterdam (Regional Government). The funding sources did not influence study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation of the data, nor the writing of the manuscript or decision to submit for publication. The authors would like to thank Wichor Bramer
(biomedical information specialist, Erasmus MC Rotterdam) in assisting with database search for this meta-analysis.
Copyright © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.