Open Access Research article

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in a rural, physically active, low income population in Sri Lanka

M Janani Pinidiyapathirage1*, Anuradha S Dassanayake1, Shaman Rajindrajith1, Udaya Kalubowila1, Norihiro Kato2, A Rajitha Wickremasinghe1 and H Janaka de Silva1

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, P O Box 6, Ragama 11010, Sri Lanka

2 Department of Gene Diagnostics and Therapeutics, Research Institute, National Center for Global Health and Medicine, 1-21-1 Toyama, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-8655, Japan

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:513  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-513

Published: 24 November 2011



Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is recognized as a metabolic disorder largely seen in urbanized populations. The purpose of this study was to assess prevalence and risk factors for NAFLD in a rural, physically active, economically deprived population in Sri Lanka.


By visiting individual households in the community, 35-64 year old adults resident in two selected estates in the Nuwara Eliya District of Sri Lanka, were invited to participate in the study. Blood pressure and anthropometric measurements were made on all participants. Blood samples were obtained for the assay of fasting glucose, serum lipids, serum insulin and alanine aminotransferase. NAFLD was diagnosed on established ultrasound criteria for fatty liver in the absence of hepatitis B and C markers and high alcohol consumption.


Of those invited, 403 (65%) participated in the study. Almost all participants were either Indian or Sri Lankan Tamils and 53% were females. Prevalence of NAFLD was 18% in this population. Twice as many males were diagnosed as having NAFLD compared to females. Male sex, high BMI, high waist circumference, high diastolic blood pressure and high plasma glucose levels were significant predictors of NAFLD.


Nearly one in five people in this predominantly Indian Tamil, rural, physically active, economically deprived population had NAFLD. The condition was associated with constituent features of the metabolic syndrome. These results support studies reporting ethnic variations in disease susceptibility and suggest that genetic factors may also play a role in determining disease risk.