Can fatty liver disease affect children?

Joanna Yeh, MD
Pediatric Gastroenterology
Fatty liver disease affects about 10 percent of all children, and about 40 percent of obese children. Children are considered obese when their body mass index, or BMI, is greater than the 95th percentile. The prevalence of fatty liver varies with age. There's an increased prevalence starting at about age 10. For ages 5 to 9, fatty liver is at 3 percent prevalence, and for ages 10 to 14 the prevalence is 11 percent. This is important because statistics guide healthcare providers on when to start screening children for fatty liver. There is also a gender predominance. Boys are more likely to have fatty liver than girls. Further, Asians and Hispanics have increased rates of fatty liver compared with whites and African Americans. African Americans have one of the lowest prevalence of fatty liver, which is likely due to a protective genetic effect.

About 5 percent of children are estimated to have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), commonly associated with obesity in children and adults.  Fatty liver is thought to effect up to half of all obese children. Children with fatty liver disease may experience abdominal pain or fatigue.

Continue Learning about Fatty Liver Disease

What You Need to Know About Fatty Liver Disease
What You Need to Know About Fatty Liver Disease
You may not be familiar with its name, but fatty liver disease, a condition that can lead to liver failure and other serious complications, is silentl...
Read More
What do I need to know about caring for someone with fatty liver disease?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
Fatty liver disease (FLD) can be caused by heavy and prolonged drinking, certain medications, ...
More Answers
Why is fatty liver disease on the rise in the United States?
Julia J. Wattacheril, MDJulia J. Wattacheril, MD
Fatty liver disease is on the rise in the United States because obesity rates have risen dramaticall...
More Answers
What a Fatty Liver Looks Like
What a Fatty Liver Looks Like

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.