Obesity Affects Liver Health of Kids

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Researchers reveal that liver health of kids as young as 8 years old might be affected by obesity, according to a study conducted April 4, 2018.

According to the study, children having bigger waist circumference at age 3 are more likely to have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease at the age of 8. Although parents are aware that obesity leads to type 2 diabetes and other metabolic conditions, they are less aware about liver disease caused by obesity.

The accumulation of fat in the liver leads to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and it furthers causes inflammation, which leads to liver damage. It is estimated that around 80 million people in the U.S. are affected by this condition and it is the most common chronic disease found in children and adolescents. Generally, there is no symptoms for this disease, however, development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Blood levels of a liver enzyme known as ALT in 635 children were measured by the researchers. ALT is a marker for liver damage and it can occur in individuals who suffer from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and other liver conditions. The results showed elevated ALT levels in 23 percent of the children who are at the age of 8. 35 percent of the 8-year-olds with obesity were found to have elevated ALT, as compared to 20 percent of those with normal weight.

Jennifer Woo Baidal, lead author of the paper said, “Currently, the best way for kids and adults to combat fatty liver disease is to lose weight, by eating fewer processed foods and getting regular exercise. We urgently need better ways to screen, diagnose, prevent, and treat this disease starting in childhood.”

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