Pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a critical appraisal of current data and implications for future research

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2006 Oct;43(4):413-27. doi: 10.1097/01.mpg.0000239995.58388.56.


Although population prevalence is very difficult to establish, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is probably the most common cause of liver disease in the preadolescent and adolescent age groups. There seems to be an increase in the prevalence of NAFLD, likely related to the dramatic rise in the incidence of obesity during the past 3 decades. Despite an increase in public awareness, overweight/obesity and related conditions, such as NAFLD, remain underdiagnosed by health care providers. Accurate diagnosis and staging of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) requires liver biopsy. The development of noninvasive surrogate markers and the advancements in imaging technology will aid in the screening of large populations at risk for NAFLD. Two distinct histological patterns of NASH have been identified in the pediatric population, and discrete clinical and demographic features are observed in children with these 2 patterns. The propensity for NASH to develop in obese, insulin-resistant pubertal boys of Hispanic ethnicity or a non-Hispanic white race may provide clues to the pathogenesis of NAFLD in children. The natural history of pediatric NASH has yet to be defined, but most biopsies in this age group demonstrate some degree of fibrosis. In addition, cirrhosis can be observed in children as young as 10 years. While the optimal treatment of pediatric NAFLD has yet to be determined, lifestyle modification through diet and exercise should be attempted in children diagnosed with NAFLD. A large, multicenter trial of vitamin E and metformin is underway as part of the NASH clinical research network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Disease Progression
  • Fatty Liver / diagnosis*
  • Fatty Liver / epidemiology
  • Fatty Liver / etiology
  • Fatty Liver / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / diagnosis
  • Liver Cirrhosis / etiology
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Research
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications