London: Nearly half-a-million children in Britain are at risk of developing life-threatening liver disease as they are overweight or obese, a government health
adviser has warned.
According to Prof Martin Lombard, UK`s National Clinical Director for Liver Disease, the four to 14-year-olds could develop "non alcoholic liver disease" caused by build-up
of fat in liver cells, which stops the organ from functioning.
Though cirrhosis -- scarring of the liver – is commonly associated with alcohol abuse, it can also be caused by obesity, he says.
Prof Lombard warns that up to 60,000 10-year-olds "could be at risk" of having excessive fat in the liver while they are children, leading to serious health problems when they get older.
When looking at a broader age range, children aged four to 14, the figures are even more stark, with the doctor estimating that 500,000 are potentially at risk.
"Liver disease is a silent killer, which is putting the lives of thousands of our children at risk. We do not want to see the next generation dying young from a condition that can be prevented.
"We know that with childhood obesity on the rise we can expect more children to be at risk of fatty liver disease in the near future," Prof Lombard was quoted by the British
media as saying.
Prof Lombard bases his projections on figures from the National Child Measurement Programme.
The British government figures for child obesity in England in the school year 2009/10 showed that nearly a fifth of children in reception class (aged four) were obese or
Prof Lombard added: "The biggest risk factor is being overweight. The unfortunate problem with liver disease is you don`t get any symptoms at all until it`s at an advanced stage. So you get cirrhosis and then you have complications that arise from that cirrhosis which can be very serious.
"So it`s not until that late stage that you get any symptoms at all. Parents should be concerned about children who are overweight as they will be at risk of developing fatty
"If they don`t become more active and lose the weight as they go on, then they become overweight adults and have a range of other risk factors as well."