Fatty Liver Disease Gets a New, More Inclusive Name

Patient with their physician.

If the phrase “fatty liver disease” makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Although this condition affects so many Americans – an estimated 1 in 4 – the name leaves a lot to be desired.

Recently, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, the major professional organization of liver disease specialists across the United States, joined similar organizations worldwide in announcing new names for the family of conditions previously under the “fatty liver disease” umbrella.

The team of liver disease experts at Capital Digestive Care is committed to providing inclusive and judgment-free care for people with all forms of liver disease. That’s why we’re moving towards adopting the new naming system for this family of diseases.

“Changing the name from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) to metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD) better describes the cause of the condition as it relates to the metabolism. It also better aligns it as one of five cardiometabolic risk factors for heart disease, which is the number one killer for people with MASLD,” says Capital Digestive Care physician and liver disease specialist Dr. John Smith. 

Types of fatty liver disease

Steatotic liver disease

Old name – Fatty Liver Disease

The umbrella term for this family of conditions.

Metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD)

Old name – Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

Occurs when too much fat accumulates in the liver of individuals who consume minimal to no alcohol. Generally has no symptoms.

MetALD (pronunciation: Met A-L-D)

Old name – N/A

A new subtype of MASLD that occurs when too much fat accumulates in the liver of individuals who consume elevated amounts of alcohol. Generally has no symptoms.

Metabolic dysfunction-associated steatohepatitis (MASH)

Old name – Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)

A more severe form of SLD that causes the liver to become swollen and damaged. Can cause decreased liver function.

Alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD)

Old name – Alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD)

Occurs when too much fat builds up the liver of a person who drinks alcohol heavily over a long period of time.

How were these new names chosen, and why are these name changes important?

More than 200 stakeholders came together, representing hepatology and gastroenterology societies across the world, patients and patient advocacy organizations, regulatory experts, and industry representatives. Beginning in 2020, the group studied whether the names needed to change, and if so, what the new names should be. The goal was to make sure the condition names accurately described the conditions and diseases, while avoiding language that might make individuals feel stigmatized or judged.

Capital Digestive Care is proud to join forward-thinking liver and GI healthcare organizations in adopting these new names. Our hope is that by doing so, we will reduce some of the barriers that make it more difficult for people to seek the care they need, which will ultimately save lives.