BACKGROUND:Limited prospective studies have examined changes in non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease (NAFLD) related serum-metabolites and none the effects of NAFLD-reversion. We aimed to evaluate whether perturbations in metabolites indicate predisposition to NAFLD development and to assess the effects of NAFLD reversion on metabolite profiles. METHODS:A targeted liquid-chromatography tandem mass-spectrometry metabolic profiling (n = 453 metabolites) approach was applied, using serum from 45 subjects of the PREDIMED study, at baseline and after a median 3.8-year follow-up. NAFLD was determined using the hepatic steatosis index; with three groups classified and studied: Group 1, not characterized as NAFLD cases during the follow-up (n = 15); Group 2, characterized as NAFLD during the follow-up (n = 15); Group 3, characterized as NAFLD-reversion during the follow-up (n = 15). RESULTS:At baseline, significantly lower storage and transport lipids (triacylglycerols and cholesteryl esters), several monoetherglycerophosphocholines, acylglycerophosphocholines, ceramides and ceramide to sphingomyelin ratio (P < 0.05), were found; whereas a higher L-cystine to L-glutamate ratio (P < 0.05) was observed, in group 2 as compared to group 1.P-ether acylglycerophosphocholines, ceramides and sphingolipids were significantly different betweengroup 3 and group 1 (P < 0.05). Higher 16:1n-7 to 16:0, and 18:0 to16:0 ratio (P < 0.05), while lower 18:1n-9 to 18:0, 16:0 to 18:2n-6, and 18:3n-6 to 18:2n-6 ratio (P < 0.05) were observed in the final, compared to baseline values, in groups 2 and 3. CONCLUSION:The rearrangement of lipid biosynthesis and serum transport may indicate predisposition to NAFLD development. Despite an expected reduction of hepatic lipotoxicity and improved hepatic function in the participants of the study characterized as NAFLD-reversing, the side effects of NAFLD in serum metabolic profiles remained present. TRIAL REGISTRATION:The trial is registered at ISRCTN35739639. Registration date: 5th October 2005.