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Obesity and Liver Disease in Children Seen as a Serious Health Risk

Jul 22, 2005 | As obesity reaches epidemic proportions and becomes more problematic, the number of medical studies on the subject has also increased. 

The connection between obesity and diabetes in children, the relationship between stress and belly fat, and the link between milk consumption and obesity in children have all made the headlines in the past two months.
A new study is now addressing the adverse affects of living in a fast-food society. Fatty liver disease, unheard of in children twenty years ago, has become a serious concern of health care professionals and pediatricians.
Fatty liver disease occurs when fat builds up in the liver causing inflammation and scaring. This can lead to serious liver damage that resembles the affects of alcoholism.

The disease affects one in five people who are overweight or obese. According to Dr. Eve Roberts, a hepatologist at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, at least 5% of Canadian children show at least the early stages of the condition.

Unlike diabetes, however, fatty liver disease often exhibits few symptoms and therefore is difficult to diagnose.  In some cases, in fact, it is not until a child exhibits physical symptoms that anyone even suspects fatty liver disease.
When specific examinations are done, however, children are often seen to be in the beginning stages of liver disease. If diagnosed early, damage to the liver can be reversed with a commitment to lifestyle changes.

Thus, doctors are encouraging such a commitment to healthy diet and exercise in children before the onset of liver damage. Dr. Peter Nieman of the Calgary Pediatric Obesity Centre says "Clearly we have our job cut out for us to explain to families not to worry just about diabetes or just about high cholesterol or just about the obesity per se, but also to start thinking about the liver,"

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