, Volume 74, Issue 4, pp 401-408
Date: 25 May 2007

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and childhood obesity

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Obesity has emerged as a significant global health problem in the pediatric population. Pediatric liver disease is a serious complication of childhood obesity. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is an entity in the spectrum of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) ranges from fat in the liver — simple steatosis, NASH/ steatohepatitis — fat with in ammation and/or fibrosis to advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis when fat may no longer be present. NASH is associated with obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance (IR), and hypertriglyceridemia. Children get NAFLD, and the incidence of this pediatric liver disease is rising as childhood obesity becomes increasingly prevalent. Although much remains to be learned about pediatric NAFLD, it is already evident that children with NASH risk progressive liver damage, including cirrhosis. Liver biopsy is required for definitive diagnosis, and other causes of fatty liver in childhood must be excluded. Gradual weight loss through increased regular exercise and a low-fat, low-refined carbohydrate diet appears to be effective. Drug treatments are being developed. The important message is that childhood obesity poses important health problems, including but not limited to potentially severe chronic liver disease. Early diagnosis of children who are only overweight is a worthy goal so that strategies to limit obesity can be instituted as early as possible. Identification of genetic risks is important, but management will invariably require changes in environmental factors. In addition to individual treatment, a multifaceted, societal initiative is required for solving the childhood obesity epidemic.