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August 10, 2009

Liver Disease Striking Obese Adolescents

The obesity epidemic has revealed a new and troubling trend among young people. Severe liver damage, to the point where teenagers need transplants is becoming more common. Having too much body fat is what is causing this epidemic. Overweight teens that do not need liver transplants as teenagers, may need them by the time they are in their 30’s and 40’s. Experts are saying that pediatricians should be more vigilant when they are dealing with obese adolescents.

The resulting ailments of severe liver damage is cirrhosis liver cancer and liver failure. Children in the United States, Europe, Australia and even some children in developing countries are having these problems. An estimate 2-5 percent of American children over 5 may have this condition. Of these children that may have the condition, almost all of them are overweight.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is what experts are classifying the condition as. Surprisingly this condition, caused by having too much body fat is the most common cause of liver disease. There are some experts that think that as many as 10 percent of all children and half of those who are obese may have this condition. However, very few children are actually tested for this condition. A simple blood test can identify that there may be present but only a biopsy can diagnosis the disease.

Most people identify cirrhosis of the liver with alcoholism. However, fat build up causes more of the condition than alcoholism does. Over time, as fat builds up, the liver becomes inflamed and scarred. The good news is, if cirrhosis has not developed yet, weight loss can help reverse fatty liver disease. That means that overweight children that have substantial belly fat, diabetes, cholesterol or heart problems. Some children of normal weight have also had such problems. In those cases, Genetics, diet and exercise levels are vital when it comes to contribution to the condition.

Nonalcoholic cirrhosis of the liver is the leading cause of liver disease. That means that many of the transplant situations that arise could be prevented if people were willing to take care of themselves. Children’s diets can be largely controlled by their parents and what parent would not want to help cut the risk of liver disease for their child? Liver transplants are hard to come by. Having an abundance of people that need them is highly undesirable. There is a good chance that liver donors will not be able to meet the demand. Causing many people to die at young ages.

As obesity continues to increase amongst Americans, the likelihood of people getting disease that can be prevented with exercise and diet is going up. Doctors must be more diligent when it comes to overweight teens. They need to put pressure on parents and make both the teens and the parents understand the seriousness of being overweight. Liver disease is a dangerous ailment that will probably kill many more people in the future unless something is done now to stop the obesity trend among children.

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