In many cases, liver fat accumulation is associated with obesity and diabetes, and some experts consider it part of the metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions associated with increased risk of  cardiovascular disease.

Lifestyle factors often play a role in the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Obesity is the number one risk factor, especially abdominal or visceral fat accumulation, indicated by a large waist circumference.However, lean people can also develop fatty liver disease.

People with type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and high cholesterol or triglycerides levels are at higher risk for NALFD, and inadequate physical activity and poor sleep have also been identified as risk factors. 

Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition similar to NAFLD.

People with hepatitis C who have genotype 3 of the virus are more susceptible to fatty liver disease than those with other genotypes. The reasons for this have not yet been determined.

In some cases, fatty liver disease can have multiple simultaneous causes, for example, obesity plus heavy drinking.

Last Reviewed: January 27, 2023