Early Weight Gain May Harm Children's Livers

Apr 5, 2018

A new study has found that childhood weight gain may have a negative impact on liver health in children as young as eight.

The study found that bigger waist circumference at age 3, raises the likelihood that by age 8, children will have markers for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease occurs when too much fat accumulates in the liver and triggers inflammation, causing liver damage. It’s the most common chronic liver condition in children and adolescents.

The disease is usually symptomless in children, but if left untreated can cause liver scarring and in some cases, liver cancer.

Childhood obesity is also associated with type 2 diabetes and other metabolic conditions.

Experts say the best way for kids and adults to combat fatty liver disease is to lose weight, eat fewer processed foods and get regular exercise.

16 percent of West Virginia children ages 2-4 who participate in the federal Women’s Infants and Children program are obese, ranking the state ninth in the country, according to the State of Obesity.

The study was published today in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.