Too young for such an “old” condition: 8-year-olds now being diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
06/06/2018 // Zoey Sky // Views

Adults who have an unhealthy lifestyle are often diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

But according to a study, there is an alarming link "between childhood obesity and juvenile liver health problems."

The study on children involved researchers from Harvard Medical School based on Project Viva of Massachusetts. It confirmed a connection between childhood obesity and liver health in eight-year-old children.

Data from the study showed that a larger waist circumference at age three may increase the chance that when the child turns eight years old, they could exhibit the symptoms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

More than 80 million Americans have NAFLD, and increasing rates of childhood obesity are causing the disease in young patients.

Aside from NAFLD, obesity can also cause type 2 diabetes and other metabolic conditions in children.

It's worrisome that not everyone is aware of the increased risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. NAFLD involves the presence of excess fat in and around the liver, which may cause inflammation that can then result in liver damage.

There is one obstacle to preventing NAFLD. It has almost no symptoms, and it can be hard to diagnose through conventional medical methods. The progression of NAFLD can cause cirrhosis of the liver, a condition identified by scarring of this crucial organ. The silent killer may even cause liver cancer.

But there's a silver lining: The disease can be prevented by taking proper action.

Childhood obesity and NAFLD

While earlier studies on liver disease focused on adults, the findings of this study on children can be used to create "a foundation of health that continues into adulthood."

In the study, researchers tracked 635 children from the Project Viva study of Massachusetts and their liver enzyme ALT levels were measured.

ALT is an indicator of liver damage if levels are elevated.

Based on data from the study, by the age of eight about one-fourth of the children already had elevated ALT levels. The children with a larger waist circumference and other signs of obesity at the age of three and older had a higher chance of having elevated ALT levels and an increased risk of developing liver disease when they turned eight years old.

Overall, obese children had a 35 percent chance of having elevated ALT levels. (Related: Ease the load on your liver with these 7 foods.)

The results of the study emphasized the need to teach kids healthy eating habits from a young age. Failure to do so can result in negative health effects due to excess weight and obesity, along with inflammation that can cause liver disease in childhood.

There are many ways to promote liver health in both children and adults such as avoiding processed food, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight. Taking beneficial herbs like milk thistle can also boost liver health.

The research was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Natural remedies for NAFLD

Aside from following a healthy diet full of organic fruits and vegetables, here are some natural remedies that can help prevent nonalcoholic liver fatty disease:

  • Follow a low-glycemic diet - Avoiding high-glycemic-index (GI) foods is crucial to preventing and treating NAFLD. Avoid high GI foods that will increase blood sugar levels like brown rice, potatoes, and watermelon. Other HGI foods include processed foods like beer, chocolate bars, and sweetened cereals. Consume low GI foods, which have a GI of 55 or less, like apples, artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, eggs, garlic, leafy greens, legumes, onions, and pears.
  • Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) - Milk thistle is considered the best herbal remedy that can boost liver function and treat/prevent NAFLD. It contains flavonoids that can help protect you from liver damage. Flavonoids can also help enhance the detoxification process and increase the glutathione in the liver. Glutathione is important for low liver function in individuals with NAFLD patients. Additionally, milk thistle is good for other liver-related diseases like alcoholic hepatitis, chemical toxicity, cirrhosis, and viral hepatitis.
  • Regular exercise - Weight loss is the most effective treatment for NAFLD. Exercise for at least 40 minutes five days a week if you already have the disease. Regular exercise can help balance enzyme values and boost liver health in patients.

You can read more articles about how a healthy diet can help prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease at

Sources include:

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