Thanks to the flooding of the food market with countless packets of fried snacks and aerated drinks, obesity, especially in children, has assumed epidemic proportions even in developing countries where children are generally assumed to be undernourished. In India, most parents live in blissful oblivion of the epidemic of obesity attacking all age groups including tiny tots, leaving behind a trail of irreversible damage to vital organs including the heart and liver thanks to the still prevailing misconception that a chubby “Glaxo baby” is an ideal role model for “healthy kids”.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is creeping up in entire populations of kids as well as adults and is considered to be a lifestyle disorder, largely characterized by obesity and resultant pathological changes in multiple organs. Depending on the diagnostic criteria employed, the incidence of NAFLD is anywhere between 3 and 12 % but it can go up to alarming heights of 70-80 % in obese kids.
Don’t take NAFLD lightly. It is a metabolic disorder characterized by excessive fat deposition in the liver tissue, which is not associated with infection, medication, or an autoimmune process. Additionally, NAFLD includes a spectrum of liver diseases, ranging from simple hepatic steatosis, which has also been called NAFL, to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which carries an increased risk of progression to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and even hepatocellular carcinoma.
Ironically and alarmingly, atherosclerosis, which is the basic underlying pathology in coronary artery disease leading to heart attack and even death, is intimately connected to NAFLD. Children with NAFLD have significantly higher fasting glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure – all features that go with coronary artery disease in older patients.
So the next time you feel like complimenting the mother of a chubby kid, think twice or even banish the thought as you may be encouraging a potentially lethal process that is ticking away like a time bomb of sorts (Children (Basel). 2017 Jun; 4(6): 48).