New Study Indicates Obesity Can Begin Damaging Liver even at the Age of 8

World over and in India, increasing incidence of liver diseases at an early age has become a cause for worry for healthcare providers. So much so that liver diseases are being touted as the next biggest lifestyle disease after diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

With a recent pediatric study grabbing the world’s attention through some surprising outcomes, the discussion around how early liver diseases can hit a person is growing hotter.

The Columbia University conducted study foundthat 35% of children suffering from obesity had shown signs of non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases (NAFLD) by the age of 8 years.

The study conducted on around 635 children revealed that those with larger waistline at the age of 3 had twice the chances of developing signs indicative of NAFLDin next 5 years.

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Throwing light on what NAFLD is Dr. Harshal Rajekar, Consultant – Hepatobiliary and Gastro-Intestinal Surgery Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune says, “NAFLD is basically accumulation of fat in liver in people who have no or little alcohol consumption. Liver happens to be the largest organ in the body and manages the important function of getting rid of all toxins. Around 5 to 10 per cent of fat in liver is fine, but when fat content is more than the threshold limit, the liver is said to be fatty. NAFLD does not show symptoms during the onset, giving a patient no clue about deteriorating liver condition. Although the causes of the disease are unknown, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels are the primary risk factors.  Fatty liver may not cause severe problems.But the condition usually grows in to a serious issue by causing inflammation in the liver, resulting in NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis) scarring, cirrhosis and even liver failure. Before NAFLD advances in to a serious condition, healthy balanced diet with low sugar and fat content can help it to reverse. As NAFLD /NASH shows no signs or definite symptoms, a person should get regular testing done, especially if the person is suffering from any of the previous conditions.”

With obesity affecting a large section of Indian population especially in urban region, the latest findings should be ringing alarm bells amongst healthcare industry across the country.

In the age group of 15 to 49 years, over 31% urban women and 26% urban men are overweight or obese in India, with over 32% women and 41% men in Maharashtra. Urban Pune mirrors the state data of 32% women and 41% men being obese or overweight.

“32% obesity rates in the state does not remain low when it translates into number of people getting affected. While we have some figures of obesity rates in adults, there is a lack of reliable data on figures of childhood obesity in the country. Although an international study indicated that by 2025, India will be home to over 17 million obese children, and stand 2nd amongst 184 countries for childhood obesity. While obesity remains one of the major risk factors for diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol levels in the body, awareness around its effect on liver, especially in children is very low and limited.”

There happens to be no cure for the disease, especially when it has progressed to advanced stages. Primarily lifestyle choices need to be altered in most of these cases, with a major focus on diet and exercise. NAFLD happens to be linked to cardiovascular diseases, chronic kidney diseases, and many other conditions, making it vital for people to take care of liver.

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