Fatty liver disease rises with childhood obesity

April 26, 2011 3:06:50 PM PDT
Doctors have reported a link between the increasing amount of overweight kids and the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Alfred Rufo is one of those children and, because treatment options are limited, he relies on losing weight along with a healthy diet and exercise to slow down the destruction of his liver.

"It's really, really, really hard like a math exam hard," he says.

The disease poses a larger danger because it is usually present without any noticeable symptoms.

"By the time symptoms ever do present it's often times too late to do much about what's already happened to their liver," says Dr. Joel Lavine of Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. "In children with fatty liver disease, their liver fills up with fat and starts to turn yellowish. All of these clear areas that look like Swiss cheese shows where there's an accumulation of fat globules."

Those with insulin resistance and high levels of fat in the blood have also been found to be more commonly affected.

A study at Columbia University Medical Center tested a diabetes medication called Metformin along with vitamin C hoping that it would stop the disease from progressing.

Over 96 weeks, there were no changes when compared to placebo pills.

The results of another study conducted a few years ago showed that 10 percent of overweight children had the disease.

There is also the risk of cirrhosis of the liver which can lead to a liver transplant based on severity.

The most beneficial treatment is maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.

In that case, Alfred is on the right track.

"I'm really on a strict diet with my mom and I'm dancing now, I'm exercising," he says.