BACKGROUND: The fatty liver index (FLI) is frequently used as a non-invasive clinical marker for research, prognostic and diagnostic purposes. It is also used to stratify individuals with hepatic steatosis such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and to detect the presence of type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. The FLI is calculated using a combination of anthropometric and blood biochemical variables; however, it reportedly excludes 8.5-16.7% of individuals with NAFLD. Moreover, the FLI cannot quantitatively predict liver fat, which might otherwise render an improved diagnosis and assessment of fatty liver, particularly in longitudinal studies. We propose FLI+ using predictive regression modelling, an improved index reflecting liver fat content that integrates 12 routinely-measured variables, including the original FLI.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: We evaluated FLI+ on a dataset from the UK Biobank containing 28,796 individual estimates of proton density fat fraction derived from magnetic resonance imaging across normal to severe levels and interpolated to align with the original FLI range. The results obtained for FLI+ outperform the original FLI by delivering a lower mean absolute error by approximately 47%, a lower standard deviation by approximately 20%, and an increased adjusted R2 statistic by approximately 49%, reflecting a more accurate representation of liver fat content.
CONCLUSIONS: Our proposed model predicting FLI+ has the potential to improve diagnosis and provide a more accurate stratification than FLI between absent, mild, moderate and severe levels of hepatic steatosis.