Background and objective: Childhood nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) associated with insulin resistance and obesity is a growing problem and increases the risk of cirrhosis, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular complications. We examined the effects of a 10-week "weight loss camp" residency in obese children on the prevalence and degree of NAFLD and insulin sensitivity with 12-month follow-up.
Methods: At the camp, 117 obese white children (body mass index 28.0 ± 3.6 kg/m, age 12.1 ± 1.3 years) exercised moderately for 1 hour/day and restricted their energy intake to induce weight loss. NAFLD was diagnosed and graded using ultrasound and transaminasemia. Insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance were assessed using homeostasis model assessment and oral glucose tolerance test. We performed anthropometric measurements and determined body composition using bioimpedance. Data were collected from 71 of 117 children at entry, after the 10 weeks at the camp, and 12 months after the camp ended.
Results: The children showed an average weight loss of 7.1 ± 2.7 kg during the camp. At baseline, 43% had ultrasonographic liver steatosis, 50% elevated transaminases (>25 IU/L), and reduced insulin sensitivity. These abnormalities were mutually related and improved significantly during the camp (P ≤ 0.05). Liver fat improvement was sustained at 12 months. At the 12-month follow-up, 17 of 71 (24%) children maintained the body weight.
Conclusions: This short-term diet and exercise program induced weight loss, markedly improved all aspects of the threatening condition of NAFLD, and reduced insulin sensitivity in childhood obesity; 24% of the children maintained weight loss at least until the 12-month follow-up.