Hispanics and fatty liver disease
The study was the first to provide a population estimate of the disease prevalence in children and was the first to use tissue analysis to determine the incidence of the disease within a given population, either pediatric or adult. The group found fatty liver disease in 11.8% of the Hispanics, 10.2% of the Asians, 8.6% of the Caucasian and 1.5% of the African American children. As the children's weight rose so did the incidence of fatty liver. The overweight and obese children accounted for 81% of the fatty liver cases.
The researchers noted that fatty liver disease is most prevalent among children and adolescents of Hispanic origin adding that the odds of a Hispanic child having fatty liver disease is five times higher than that for a black child. Within the Asian group the researchers noted there was a substantial variance among subgroups of Asian children. For example, fatty liver was found in 20% of the Filipino-American children but in only four percent of the Cambodian and Vietnamese children. Schwimmer said the most surprising finding was learning that nearly 20% of the children with fatty liver were in the healthy weight range. Children with healthy weights are unlikely to ever be screened for NAFLD and would be missed.
Previous estimates of fatty liver disease in U.S. children ranged from 0-3%. Schwimmer stated that fatty liver disease is usually diagnosed through biopsy tissue samples and that presented the first obstacle of determining the rate of the disease in a pediatric population. Children do not normally undergo liver tissue sampling; hence, until now, physicians and researchers did not have real data on how many children suffer from fatty liver. No one knew its actual occurrence. In order to study the prevalence of the disease Schwimmer said an autopsy study design was the only means the group had to assess NAFLD in the general population. The group chose to study autopsy reports in San Diego County because of its size as the fourth largest county in the United States and its significant racial and ethnic diversity. The racial and ethnic composition of the children studied closely emulated that of San Diego County's children as established by the 2000 U.S. census.
The group believes that genetics play a major role in the development of fatty liver disease. They are currently studying genes and dietary factors that may contribute to the disease's development and progression. Knowledge of the risk factors should help doctors develop a better understanding of why some children develop the disease; knowledge that could guide targeted therapies.
1 in 10 Kids May Have Fatty Livers