It’s been big news for years now: Americans by the droves
are threatening their health by living with too much body fat. Currently, over two thirds of Americans are
overweight (BMI>25) and a full third of the country has become obese
Children and teens also suffer with weight problems. Since 1980, the number of overweight children
and teens in America has more than tripled, and now stands at 15%. Weight-related diseases such as type 2
diabetes are at an all-time high among this group as well.
In a new and disturbing development, a growing number of
teenagers are starting to develop liver problems caused by too much body
fat. Some of them sustain so much damage
to their livers that they require liver transplants just to stay alive.
The damage is caused by a condition called nonalcoholic
fatty liver disease, which can lead to cirrhosis as well as, ultimately, to liver
failure and/or liver cancer. The American Liver Foundation has estimated that two to five percent of American
children over age five are living with fatty liver disease. Almost all of these children are overweight.
Despite statistics like these, pediatricians are not testing
overweight children for fatty liver disease at the rate they should. A simple blood test can reveal the presence of
the disease. Other warning signs include
excess belly fat, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart problems.
Fat that builds up in the liver over long periods of time
can lead to scarring, which in turn, can result in cirrhosis, a
live-threatening condition that has more often been caused by hepatitis or
excessive alcohol consumption. If fatty
liver disease has not yet led to cirrhosis, however, it can be reversed. Working to combat obesity with a healthy diet
and regular exercise is the first crucial step on the road towards a healthy