The hypoestrogenic period after menopause and associated metabolic imbalance might facilitate the onset of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and its progression. The prevalence of NAFLD increases in patients experiencing premature ovarian insufficiency, as well as surgical or natural menopause.
The postmenopausal period is characterized by dyslipidemia and insulin resistance associated with an increased influx of free fatty acids to the liver with consequent steatosis and further progression of NAFLD. More than half of postmenopausal women with diabetes mellitus type 2 suffer from NAFLD.
It is suggested that estrogens slow the progression of chronic liver diseases by suppression of inflammation, improvement of mitochondrial function, alleviation of oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and fibrogenesis. The hyperandrogenic state of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is associated with the development of NAFLD in women of reproductive age, but it is difficult to extend these findings to menopause due to inappropriate diagnosis of PCOS after menopause.
Lifestyle intervention, including physical activity and dietary regimens, remains the first-line preventive and therapeutic option for NAFLD. There are contradictory reports on the use of menopausal hormonal therapy (MHT) and NAFLD. It is necessary to investigate the potential effects of estradiol dose, progesterone type, selective estrogen receptor modulators and tissue-selective estrogen complex compounds on NAFLD development and progression in postmenopausal women. The present review aims to explore the pathophysiological and clinical aspects of liver metabolic disturbances in women after menopause, focusing on the possible preventive and therapeutic strategies in NAFLD, including the potential role of MHT.