- Low-birth weight and high-birth weight are both associated with the severity of liver disease.
- Children with low-birth weight were more likely to develop severe scarring of the liver.
- Children with high-birth weight were more likely to develop the hepatitis form of fatty liver disease.
From the beginning of a child's life, low birth weight and high birth weight identify children who have increased risk for health-related issues, one being non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Birth weight involves both maternal and in utero factors, which may have long-lasting consequences for liver health.
‘Extremes of weights on either side of the normal spectrum are connected to an increased risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and closer attention to the metabolic health to help prevent obesity, liver disease, and diabetes.’
Early research indicated a relationship between low-birth weight and cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, until now, there had been a lack of insight into the link between high-birth weight and long-term health outcomes.
"This is the first study to show that extremes of weights on either side of the normal spectrum are connected to an increased risk for NAFLD," said Schwimmer. "Children who are born with low birth weight or high birth weight may merit closer attention to their metabolic health to help prevent obesity, liver disease, and diabetes."
Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Birth Weight Has an Impact on Risk of Fatty Liver Disease in Children
- NAFLD affects 30 million people in the U.S., almost 10 percent of whom are children.
- It begins with excess fat deposits in the liver.
- As the disease progresses, fibrosis increases, which may become cirrhosis, a permanent form of scarring.
- Cirrhosis can lead to liver failure and need for transplantation.
Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with a cohort of clinical collaborators from across the United States, have demonstrated the impact of low and high birth weights in developing NAFLD, a chronic disease that often leads to a need for organ transplantation.
Information was obtained from more than 530 children under the age of 21 who were enrolled in the Database of the National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases NASH Clinical Research Network. The children had a diagnosis of NAFLD as confirmed by liver biopsy. The birth weights of the children were collected and compared to the distribution of birth weight categories in the general U.S. population.
"What our research found is that low-birth weight and high-birth weight were both associated with the severity of liver disease, but in different ways," said Jeffrey Schwimmer, MD, professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of the Fatty Liver Clinic at Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego.
"Children with low-birth weight were more likely to develop severe scarring of the liver. However, children with high-birth weight were more likely to develop the hepatitis form of fatty liver disease."
- Jeffrey Schwimmer et al., Birth weight is risk factor for fatty liver disease in children, Journal of Pediatrics (2017).