In a new and disturbing twist on the obesity epidemic, some overweight teens have severe liver damage caused by too much body fat, and a handful have needed liver transplants, the AP reports. The condition, which can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure or liver cancer, is being seen in kids in the US, Europe, Australia and some developing countries. Experts warn that pediatricians to be more vigilant.
An estimated 2% to 5% of American children over age 5, nearly all of them obese or overweight, have a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. As fat builds, the liver can become inflamed and scarred, leading to cirrhosis, a condition mostly caused by hepatitis or alcohol. Liver failure or liver cancer can follow, but fatty liver disease can be reversed through weight loss.