Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Risk of Dementia: A Population-Based Cohort Study

Background and Objectives

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and dementia share common risk factors including metabolic disorders. However, whether NAFLD is associated with dementia risk is unclear. We investigated the association between NAFLD and dementia risk as well as the role of cardiovascular complications including heart disease and stroke.

Methods

In this population-based matched cohort study, we identified all Swedish patients aged 65 years or older with NAFLD identified from the National Patient Register (NPR) between 1987 and 2016. These were matched with up to 10 reference individuals from the general population on age, sex, and municipality at the year of diagnosis. Incident dementia diagnosis was derived from the NPR or the Cause of Death Register until 2016. Adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs) and 95% CIs were estimated with Cox regression models.

Results

A total of 2,898 patients with NAFLD and 28,357 matched controls were identified (median age at entry, interquartile range [IQR], 70 [8]; 55.1% female). During a median follow-up of 5.5 years (IQR: 8.5 years), 145 (5.0%) patients with NAFLD and 1,291 (4.6%) reference individuals were diagnosed with dementia. Compared with the reference individuals, patients with NAFLD had higher rates of dementia (aHR 1.38, 95% CI 1.10–1.72) and vascular dementia (aHR 1.44, 95% CI 0.96–2.23, p = 0.07). Comorbid NAFLD and either heart disease (aHR 1.50 95% 1.08–2.05) or stroke (aHR 2.60 95% CI 1.95–3.47) conferred a greater risk of dementia.

Discussion

NAFLD had a modest association with increased rates of dementia. This was stronger among patients with NAFLD diagnosed with cardiovascular comorbidities.

Classification of Evidence

This study provides Class II evidence that nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is associated with the development of vascular and nonvascular dementia.

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