The metabolic syndrome and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in children

2009 Current Opinion in Pediatrics 21;4 (529-535)

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is increasingly prevalent in pediatric-age individuals, in parallel with increasing obesity, and can lead to liver inflammation, fibrosis, and even cirrhosis. NAFLD appears tightly linked with features of the metabolic syndrome (MetS). This review aims to reconsider the clinical presentation, laboratory and pathologic assessment, and treatment of NAFLD, with a focus on its relationship with the MetS. RECENT FINDINGS: NAFLD occurs with a high prevalence and severity in obese, insulin-resistant adolescents, especially Hispanic males. Pediatric NAFLD may improve with lifestyle therapy and agents that improve insulin sensitivity. In youth, NAFLD appears tightly correlated with components of the MetS, especially visceral fat, which appears to predict fibrosis as well as liver fat. In addition, noninvasive techniques such as transient elastography may help provide data on fibrosis in youth with NAFLD and avoid biopsy. SUMMARY: The close association between NAFLD and the MetS supports screening for other comorbidities associated with the MetS. Further research is urgently required to best identify effective therapies to prevent and treat NAFLD, but its close association with MetS argues for a focus on strategies designed to improve insulin resistance and components of the MetS.

Pubmed : 19444112