Childhood obesity: beware, they too can suffer from fatty liver disease (NASH)

Fatty liver disease, or fatty liver disease, occurs when there is an excessive buildup of fat in the liver. Over time, fatty deposits can irritate the liver and cause scarring, leading to more serious health issues. This article discusses fatty liver disease in children, including its signs, causes, risk factors, and treatments. It also explores the dangers and health risks of fatty liver disease if left untreated.

Overview of types of fatty liver disease

There are two types of fatty liver that can cause other complications:

– Simple hepatic steatosis, or non-alcoholic hepatic steatosis.

This type of fatty liver occurs when a child has excess fat in the liver, but there is little or no inflammation or liver damage. It usually does not cause other liver damage or complications.

-Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)

This type of disease occurs when fatty deposits in the liver cause inflammation and liver damage. About 20-50% of children with NAFLD have the NASH form. However, researchers don’t know why some children have simple fatty liver disease while others have NASH.

Symptoms of fatty liver disease in children

Pediatricians sometimes refer to NAFLD as silent liver disease because children usually do not have symptoms.

Children with symptoms may:

– feeling tired
– get tired easily
– have discomfort in the liver, in the upper right part of the abdomen.

Doctors may suspect NAFLD based on abnormal blood test results, an abdominal ultrasound, or a CT scan ordered for another purpose. Pediatricians may refer children to other medical specialists, such as pediatric gastroenterologists. These doctors specialize in health issues related to the digestive system, liver, or nutrition.

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Causes of fatty liver disease in children

Doctors don’t fully understand why some children develop NAFLD. Genetic factors may be involved. Environmental factors that promote insulin resistance and fat accumulation in the liver may also contribute to the development of NAFLD. Most children with NAFLD are in their teens. However, this disease is increasingly common in young children.

Risk factors

Screening may be useful for the following groups:

– children suffering from obesity aged 9 to 11 years
– overweight children with additional risk factors, such as:
– an accumulation of fat in the lower part of the torso, around the abdomen, which is called central adiposity
– pre-diabetes
– diabetes
– dyslipidemia
– sleep apnea
– young children suffering from severe obesity or hypopituitarism, ie the pituitary gland does not produce hormones.
– siblings and parents of children with NAFLD.

Doctors screen for fatty liver disease in children using the alanine aminotransferase (ALT) test. While ALT and imaging tests can help screen for fatty liver disease, liver biopsy is the only way to diagnose NAFLD, determine its severity, and rule out other conditions that may cause elevated liver enzymes. Parents or caregivers can consult a pediatrician if they have concerns about the risk of NAFLD in their child.

Dangers in the absence of treatment

Doctors recommend early screening to detect fatty liver disease before it develops into cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a late and irreversible disease where scar tissue replaces liver tissue and the organ is permanently damaged. A child may need a liver transplant if cirrhosis leads to liver failure.

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NASH-associated cirrhosis can also lead to liver cancer. A parent or caregiver should see a doctor to receive a prompt diagnosis and ensure their child receives the appropriate treatment.

Is fatty liver disease reversible?

If a person receives proper treatment promptly, liver damage may still be reversible. In some cases, the liver can stop or reverse the damage on its own. Losing excess weight reduces trusted source fat and inflammation in the liver. This weight reduction can help reverse or less to control the progression of the disease.

Treatments and lifestyle changes for fatty liver

Currently, there are drugs approved to treat fatty liver disease in children. Certain lifestyle changes can help reverse or control the buildup of fat in a child’s liver. These include:

– exercise regularly and participate in sporting activities
– maintain a moderate weight
– have a balanced diet
– limit portion sizes
– reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels
– control diabetes
– consult a nutritionist

Parents or caregivers can consult a pediatrician for support and advice when implementing the above lifestyle changes.

Recent research suggests that vitamin E supplements can reduce inflammation and cell damage. However, the role of vitamin E in the long-term management of NAFLD is unclear, so more research is needed. Another study from 2021 found that vitamin E was effective in normalizing ALT levels in 38% of children with NASH.


We speak of fatty liver disease when the liver stores excess fat. This disease may not produce symptoms in children. However, early detection is essential to diagnose the disease and prevent serious complications, such as cirrhosis. Current treatments focus on weight loss through a balanced diet and physical activity. These lifestyle changes can reduce fat accumulation, inflammation, and scarring in the liver.

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Hays, SM, et al. (2018). Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in children: Beyond metabolic syndrome.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). (nd).

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease & NASH in children. (2021).

* At press health we strive to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice. [HighProtein-Foods.com]

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