Obese kids 'at risk of fatty liver disease'

We're forever being told we're getting fatter as a nation but are we aware of the damage it can do to our health – and in particular, our children's health?

Obese child
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Shockingly, as many as 500,000 children in England may be at risk of developing life-threatening liver disease, according to one expert.

Professor Martin Lombard, England's National Clinical Director for Liver Disease, believes that obese four to 14-year-olds are risking heart attack, stroke, diabetes and even cirrhosis in later life due to 'fatty liver disease'.

Nearly a fifth of four year olds were obese or overweight, according to official Government figures for 2009/10. That figure increased to one in three for children aged 10 to 11.

Although cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) is more commonly associated with heavy drinking, it can also be caused by obesity. This 'non-alcoholic fatty liver disease' could be a silent killer among this generation of children, according to Professor Lombard.

"The unfortunate problem with liver disease is you don't get any symptoms at all until it's at an advanced stage. So you get cirrhosis and then you have complications that arise from that cirrhosis which can be very serious.

"So it's not until that late stage that you get any symptoms at all. Parents should be concerned about children who are overweight as they will be at risk of developing fatty liver.

"If they don't become more active and lose the weight as they go on, then they become overweight adults and have a range of other risk factors as well."

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said concern about obesity had to focus more on its internal consequences.

"One of the real terrible things about this particular condition [liver disease] - and other conditions which are internal - is that you can see obesity from the outside but you can't see it from the inside," she said.

"What you have to understand is that the fat that you're ingesting not only clogs around the arteries and the organs but also infiltrates them as well. And that is the killer."

What do you think? Should we be more concerned about our kids' weight? Leave a comment below...