The term non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFLD) was originally coined to describe hepatic fat deposition as part of the metabolic syndrome. However, a variety of rare hereditary liver and metabolic diseases, intestinal diseases, endocrine disorders and drugs may cause hepatic steatosis reminiscent of NAFLD, aggravate obesity-/metabolic syndrome-associated lipid deposition, or coexist with NAFLD. In contrast to NAFLD, therapeutic interventions are available for many secondary causes of NAFLD. Accordingly, secondary causes of fatty liver disease should be considered during the diagnostic workup of patients with fatty liver disease, and treatment of the underlying disease should be started to halt disease progression. Common genetic variants in several genes involved in lipid handling and metabolism modulate the risk of progression from steatosis to fibrosis, cirrhosis and HCC development in NAFLD, alcohol-related liver disease and viral hepatitis. Hence, we speculate that genotyping of common risk variants for liver disease progression may be equally useful to gauge the likelihood of developing advanced liver disease in patients with secondary fatty liver disease.