Red blood cell counts associated with risk of fatty liver disease


At least in a population of Southern Chinese adults, a high risk of fatty liver disease is independently associated with an increased count of red blood cells, a new study reports.

The study involved a total of 8,618 individuals from the health examination centres of the participating hospitals. Those who were below the age of 20 years, had a history of diseases that cause chronic liver disease, were taking antihypertensives, lipid-lowering or glucose-lowering drugs, and had incomplete background medical information were excluded from the study.

Status of fatty liver disease, as assessed by ultrasonography, biochemical measurements and anthropometric information were retrieved from the patient records. The primary outcome was the relationship between red blood cell count and fatty liver disease prevalence.

Analysis found that regardless of gender, patients with fatty liver disease had significantly higher red blood cell counts compared with those without the disease (p<0.001). Increasing quantiles of red blood cells were associated with significant increases in the prevalence of fatty liver disease (p<0.001 for all). This trend was observed in both genders, but the prevalence was higher in men than in women.

Comparing the fifth quantile with the first quantile also revealed a positive correlation between fatty liver disease and red blood cell count in both men (odds ratio [OR], 2.56; 95 percent CI, 2.06 to 3.18) and women (OR, 3.69; 2.74 to 4.98).

Similar trends were observed regardless of the presence of risk factors for fatty liver disease, according to stratified analyses.

The findings thus show that increased levels of red blood cell counts are independently correlated with increased risks of fatty liver disease and suggest that red blood cell count may be a potential risk predictor for fatty liver disease.