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Front Biosci. 2005 Sep 1;10:2306-18.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in children.

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Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1X8, Canada.


Childhood NAFLD has become an important childhood liver disease, and it is probably highly prevalent. The full of spectrum of NAFLD has been identified in children. It is not currently known whether or not simple hepatic steatosis in children is benign or whether it evolves to NASH over time. In contrast, childhood NASH certainly can have serious consequences. Cirrhosis is apparently rare in children with NAFLD, but it definitely occurs. Childhood NAFLD may occur in very young children, and there is no female predominance in the pediatric age bracket. Children present with vague abdominal pain, if they have any symptoms at all, but frequently hepatic steatosis is found incidentally on abdominal imaging. Laboratory studies show that serum aminotransferase abnormalities are rather moderate, with serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) more elevated than serum aspartate aminotransferase (AST). Hypertriglyceridemia is the typical blood lipid abnormality, although hypercholesterolemia may occur. NASH may be more severe in children from certain ethnic groups, including Hispanics and Asians, or in association with certain metabolic disorders characterized by abnormalities in insulin receptor structure or signaling, such as lipodystrophy syndromes. Weight loss through dietary redesign and a regimen of regular exercise remains the mainstay for treatment for childhood NAFLD. A dietary strategy to minimize postprandial hyperinsulinemia and overall fat intake, such as a low glycemic index diet, may be the best dietary strategy. The real efficacy of drug treatments in children requires further investigation. The overriding message is that childhood obesity poses important health problems, including but not limited to potentially severe chronic liver disease. Early diagnosis of children who are only overweight is a worthy goal so that strategies to limit obesity can be instituted as early as possible. Identification of genetic risks is important, but management will invariably require changes in environmental factors. In addition to individual treatment, a multifaceted, societal initiative is required for solving the childhood obesity epidemic.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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