There has been a big increase in fatty liver disease in children. Why are kids increasingly being diagnosed with the disease that used to just be common in older men?
It used to be pretty rare for children to be diagnosed with fatty liver disease. It was normally only seen in older adults, mostly men who drank too much alcohol.
But according to a new analysis from the Washington Post, between 2017 and 2021, diagnoses in children under seventeen of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease more than doubled. It’s estimated that 5% to 10% of all U.S. children now have it, making it as common as asthma.
The results of fatty liver disease can be catastrophic. In some cases, it requires an organ transplant. In fact, there has been a 25% increase in liver transplants in kids between the ages of 11 and 17 in the past decade.
Hospital treatment for the disease has also surged in the last few years. According to the Post, the problem is the worst in the Southeast U.S. where rates of pediatric obesity are the highest.
Research is still underway to find out what is going on, but obesity appears to be part of the problem. Scientists studying the issue that the modern lifestyle is also playing a role.
An increase in a sedentary lifestyle, ultra-processed foods, and sugar all seem to affect how the liver operates. A recent study found that just 150 minutes a week of moderate to intense exercise significantly reduced fat in the liver.