A new study has found that overweight or obese kids with fatty liver disease might be at an increased risk of developing heart disease in later life.
The study conducted over 150 overweight children with biopsy-proven non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and 150 overweight children without NAFLD found that children had an elevated cardiovascular risk.
The overweight children with NAFLD showed higher levels of fasting glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, "bad" cholesterol), triglycerides and higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure than the control group.
They also had significantly lower levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, "good" cholesterol) than the control group.
Children with metabolic syndrome were five times more likely to have NAFLD as overweight and obese children without metabolic syndrome.
"Our results demonstrate that obese children and adolescents with a definitive diagnosis of NAFLD have a more severe cardiovascular risk profile than their age, sex and BMI-matched peers," said Dr Jeffrey Schwimmer, lead author of the study and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.
"These collective data illustrate that fat accumulation in the liver may play a more important role than obesity itself in determining the risk for 'weight-related' metabolic co-morbidities.
"Thus, in children and adolescents, NAFLD may serve as a marker to stratify the cardiovascular risk of overweight and obese patients," he added.
Schwimmer said: "Roughly 25 percent of children with fatty liver will develop hepatitis as children or by their 20s. Of these, approximately 20 percent may go on to develop cirrhosis as young adults, with a subsequent life expectancy of seven years.
"Overweight children age 8 or older and especially those with symptoms of metabolic syndrome should be screened for NAFLD," he added.
The findings are reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.