Junk food giving plateful of fatty liver disease to Indian children

Non-Alcoholic Stereo Hepatitis Liver Disease (NASH), also known as fatty liver disease, has emerged as a major threat which is reflected in increase in obesity rate, according to medical experts.

In a clinical study on 4,000 children in the age group of four to 18 at a private hospital in Delhi, 60 per cent of the children were reported to have varying grades of NASH ranging from 1 to 3, which indicates that the disease is at an initial stage.

“Children at initial stages do not have any symptoms at all,” said Dr Deep Goel of BL Kapur Hospital, an expert in weight-loss surgeries.

Goel led the research team of eight doctors who conducted the study.

“Those children (with varying grades of NASH) were usually obese and only after doing an ultrasound, the fatty disposition could be detected,” he added.

This liver disease is characterised by the presence of fat in the liver along with inflammation in people who don't drink alcohol or consume little.

The condition’s rise is tied to the obesity epidemic, but isn’t caused solely being overweight.

It is rising amongst normal-weight children too, experts say. “The children don’t get proper nutrition due to unhealthy eating habits,” said Goel, pointing out the risks of diet comprising of pizza, burger, cola and fries.

Over time, the patients are prone to fibrosis, or scarring of the liver, and it is estimated that a significant number develop cirrhosis, a severe liver disease where liver transplantation is the only current treatment available.

Goel said that precaution is considered the best treatment for NASH, as there are no specific therapies available.

Doctors stress on the need to create more awareness amongst the parents and children on the damages caused by such food in the long run.

The shares of a small American biotechnology company Intercept Pharmaceuticals, nearly quadrupled a week ago, after a clinical trial suggested first effective treatment for the fatty liver disease, that also affects millions in US.

The trial was testing the drug called obeticholic acid which is likely to be available in India in three months’ time. This drug, however, can’t be administered to children. “The clinical tests didn’t include children,” said Goel.

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