World Liver Day: How children are affected by fatty liver disease - Hindustan Times
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World Liver Day: How children are affected by fatty liver disease

By Ismat Tahseen
Apr 19, 2024 02:00 PM IST

Eating sugary and junk foods, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle brought about by increased screen time are some causes leading to this.

Today is World Liver Day, so let’s a time to take note of the importance of liver health. An integral organ of the body, the liver helps eliminate waste and toxins and breaks down food by converting it into energy. Yet today, fatty liver disease is on the rise with not just adults but children also affected by this.

Today, an increasing number of children are affected by Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. (NALD)(Shutterstock)
Today, an increasing number of children are affected by Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. (NALD)(Shutterstock)

Increasing cases

Talking about the increasing cases of children affected by fatty liver, Dr Amit Miglani, Director & HOD – Gastroenterology, Asian Hospital, affirms, “Yes, there has been a noticeable increase in cases of fatty liver among children. Previously, the prevalence of obesity and fatty liver in children was around five to six percent. However, recent data indicate a significant rise, with a considerable portion of overweight and obese children being affected. Currently, around 60 to 70 percent of children with obesity or overweight issues are diagnosed with fatty liver.”

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Unhealthy causes

Outlining causes for this, he says, “The three main reasons for the increasing prevalence of fatty liver in children are primarily related to unhealthy dietary habits."

Avoid greasy or high-fat foods like pizza with a lot of cheese (Shutterstock)
Avoid greasy or high-fat foods like pizza with a lot of cheese (Shutterstock)


He adds, "First and foremost is the consumption of high sugar products like chocolates, candies, and the increased intake of fast food such as pizza and burgers. These, along with the consumption of juices that lack real fruit content, contribute to elevated sugar levels in the blood, leading to increased fat deposition in the liver. The second factor is a sedentary lifestyle, which has become more common due to increased screen time and mobile device usage among children. Lastly, genetics also play a role in obesity and fatty liver among children, though it is often less significant compared to dietary and lifestyle factors.”


Parents need to play a strict role

One of the main things that parents can do to reduce the risk of fatty liver among children, is by prioritising a healthy diet. They can limit sugar intake via candies and beverages and steer them away from junk food, which is high in both fat and calories, further exacerbating liver fat deposition.

Dr Manoj Gupta, Head & Senior Consultant - Liver Transplant & G I Surgery, PSRI Hospital, shares, “Prolonged NAFLD ((non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), can elevate the risk of various health complications, including hypertension, metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes due to insulin resistance, cardiac illnesses, and ultimately, liver cirrhosis.”

He adds, “Parents can play a crucial role by encouraging their children to go for regular exercise, promoting outdoor activities and games and sports like football and swimming, monitoring food choices, and limiting the intake of oily, fatty, and fried foods. These lifestyle changes can lead to weight reduction and ultimately improve overall quality of life for children.”

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