Children who were born with either lower or higher weight than normal may have an increased risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease(NAFLD). They were also found to be at a higher risk for more severe disease but mostly in different ways.
Low birth weight children were associated with advanced scarring of the liver while, high birth weight is linked to more inflammation.
The research study was the first to characterize the relationship between high birth weight and NAFLD.
NAFLD affects up to 25 percent of the U.S. population, according to the American Liver Foundation. It is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in children and typically is diagnosed in early adolescence. In its most severe form it can lead to liver failure and the need for liver transplantation.
"Being able to identify at birth infants at risk for severe liver disease will help initiate earlier interventions," said Fishbein, who also is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Maintaining a healthy weight is the main strategy for preventing NAFLD in children."
The multicenter study included 538 children under 21 years of age who were enrolled in the database of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases NASH Clinical Research Network.
All participants were diagnosed with NAFLD. Birth weights were categorized as low (1500-2499 g), normal (2500-3999 g) or high (4000 g and above) and compared with the birth weight distribution in the general U.S. population. The severity of liver disease was assessed by birth weight category.