Fatty liver in children and childhood obesity

Fatty liver in children and childhood obesity

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Childhood obesity is a serious global health problem characterized by an increase in body fat in children. Obesity causes a series of health problems for children. In this case, we will talk about fatty liver in children.

We will explain what fatty liver is and what relationship exists between fatty liver in children and childhood obesity.

Know what exactly is fatty liver? It is the excessive accumulation of fat (triglycerides) in the liver, which can lead to a malfunction and a variable degree of affectation of this important organ, ranging from the simple accumulation of fat in the liver without associated symptoms, passing through fibrosis up to cirrhosis.

Fatty liver it is a relatively new disease, was described for the first time in 1983 associated with the increase in childhood obesity. In fact, fatty liver is the most common cause of liver disease in preteens and teens in developed countries.

The main risk factor for fatty liver is obesityIn fact, more than 90% of children with fatty liver are obese.

The accumulation of fat (adipose tissue) in the abdomen or middle part of the body is one of the main risk factors for developing fatty liver, hence men are at higher risk of developing fatty liver than women, who tend to accumulate fat towards low areas such as the hips.

Fatty liver occurs most often in children 10 years of age and olderHowever, it can develop as early as obesity develops from 2 years of age.

Y what are the symptoms or clinical data of fatty liver in children? Most children with fatty liver have no symptoms. When these symptoms occur, they are usually unspecific, such as:

  • Diffuse abdominal pain in the upper right part of the abdomen.
  • Tiredness, general malaise.
  • More rarely liver growth.
  • Acanthosis nigricans (black spots on the neck) is present in up to 90% of children with fatty liver
  • In laboratory studies, an increase in liver enzymes (transaminases) and an elevation of triglycerides in the blood can be found.

Timely identification of overweight and obese children is necessary to avoid the development of fatty liver and its complications such as cirrhosis.

Ultrasound is the most frequently used study to detect fatty liver, is a non-invasive study, easy to access and low cost.

The European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition recommends performing an abdominal ultrasound to search for fatty liver in all obese children over 3 years of age.

Liver biopsy is the most specific study To establish the definitive diagnosis, it can also determine liver damage and the existence of fibrosis, however, it is an invasive and expensive procedure, so it is reserved only for when advanced liver disease is suspected.

Treatment is aimed at improving the patient's lifestyle, their eating habits and physical activity, in order to reduce obesity and body fat.

Remember that in pediatric age you not only have to change the habits and lifestyle of the minor, but of the entire family, otherwise it does not work.

A reduction in weight and body fat based on a healthy diet and exercise they are enough to reverse the hepatitis associated with fatty liver on many occasions.

In those children who do not respond to dietary measures and exercise, pharmacological management by a specialist with medications such as metformin and vitamin E as antioxidants is reserved.

The best prevention for fatty liver is to avoid obesity. It is essential that you follow these tips:

  • Avoid sugary drinks, their intake is the main factor associated with obesity and the development of fatty liver in children.
  • Physical activation, encourages the practice of sports, limits the hours in front of a screen such as the television, tablet or cell phone, avoids a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Substitute whole grain or whole grain foods for refined carbohydrates or sugars.

By preventing obesity we are not only preventing fatty liver, also other associated problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and other chronic degenerative diseases that are increasingly common in pediatric age, which in the end will translate into better quality and life expectancy.

You can read more articles similar to Fatty liver in children and childhood obesity, in the Obesity category on site.

Video: May 2018 Pediatric NAFLD Webinar (November 2022).