From NAFLD to MAFLD: Implications of a Premature Change in Terminology

Zobair M. Younossi, Mary E. Rinella, Arun J. Sanyal, Stephen A. Harrison, Elizabeth M. Brunt, Zachary Goodman, David E. Cohen, Rohit Loomba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


Despite the substantial gains in our understanding of NAFLD/NASH over the past 2 decades, there has been some dissatisfaction with the terminology “non-alcoholic” which overemphasizes “alcohol” and underemphasizes the root cause of this liver disease, namely, the predisposing metabolic risk factors. As a potential remedy, a name change from NAFLD to metabolic associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) has been proposed. Although MAFLD reflects the relevant risk factors for this liver disease, this term is still suboptimal, leaving a great deal of ambiguity. Here, we caution that changing the name without understanding its broad implications can have a negative impact on the field. In this context, changing the terminology without new understanding of the molecular basis of the disease entity, new insights in risk stratification or other important aspect of this liver disease, can create unnecessary confusion which could negatively impact the field. At a time when the field is facing substantial challenges around disease awareness as well as clarity of acceptable endpoints for drug development and biomarker discovery, changing the terminology from one suboptimal name to another suboptimal name without full assessment is expected to deepen these challenges. In the context of this debate about terminology, we recommend the creation of a true international consensus group to include all the relevant scientific liver societies (AASLD, EASL, ALEH, APASL), patient advocacy organizations, bio-pharmaceutical industry, regulatory agencies and policy makers. A consensus meeting must assess the impact and consequences of changing the terminology based on the available evidence and make recommendations that will move the field forward. By this approach, a true collaborative international and inclusive consensus can be adopted by all stakeholders dealing with this important global liver disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1194-1198
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


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