Nearly One in 10 U.S. Children Has Fatty Liver Disease

Highest prevalence among Hispanics and obese

MONDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Fatty liver is the most common liver abnormality seen in children, with obese and Hispanic-American children at highest risk for developing the disease, according to a report in the October issue of Pediatrics. In the study, nearly 10 percent of all children and 38 percent of obese children had fatty liver disease.

Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, M.D., of the University of California San Diego, and colleagues conducted a retrospective review of 742 autopsy reports on children aged 2 to 19 years, with fatty liver defined as at least 5 percent of hepatocytes containing macrovesicular fat.

Once the data were adjusted for age, gender, race and ethnicity, 9.6 percent of children were estimated to have fatty liver disease. The prevalence increased with age, ranging from 0.7 percent for children aged 2 to 4 years, up to 17.3 percent for those aged 15 to 19. The condition affected 38 percent of obese children, as well as 11.8 percent of Hispanics, 10.2 percent of Asians, 8.6 percent of whites and 1.5 percent of blacks.

"Fatty liver disease is a very common problem that has gone largely unnoticed," Schwimmer said in a statement. "If the prevalence in the United States is similar to the prevalence in San Diego, this would translate to 6.5 million children. The scale of the problem has enormous ramifications for the future health of these children."

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