Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) encompasses a broad spectrum of pathological hepatic conditions ranging from simple steatosis to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which may predispose to liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Due to the epidemic obesity, NAFLD is representing a global health issue and the leading cause of liver damage worldwide. The pathogenesis of NAFLD is closely related to insulin resistance (IR), adiposity and physical inactivity as well as genetic and epigenetic factors corroborate to the development and progression of hepatic steatosis and liver injury. Emerging evidence has outlined the implication of gut microbiota and gut-derived endotoxins as actively contributors to NAFLD pathophysiology probably due to the tight anatomo-functional crosstalk between the gut and the liver. Obesity, nutrition and environmental factors might alter intestinal permeability producing a favorable micro-environment for bacterial overgrowth, mucosal inflammation and translocation of both invasive pathogens and harmful byproducts, which, in turn, influence hepatic fat composition and exacerbated pro-inflammatory and fibrotic processes. To date, no therapeutic interventions are available for NAFLD prevention and management, except for modifications in lifestyle, diet and physical exercise even though they show discouraging results due to the poor compliance of patients. The premise of this review is to discuss the role of gut–liver axis in NAFLD and emphasize the beneficial effects of probiotics on gut microbiota composition as a novel attractive therapeutic strategy to introduce in clinical practice.
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