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Fatty Liver Disease Rates Increasing in American Children

fatty liver disease

Prior to the turn of the 21st century, only a handful of cases of pediatric fatty liver disease were documented in medical literature. Today the non-alcoholic liver disease affects millions of children and has more than doubled according to data from 2017-2021. Fatty liver disease is now estimated to be about as common as asthma in children.1

Researchers estimate that 5 -10 percent of all children in the United States have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Pediatric gastroenterologist at Kentucky Children’s Hospital calls it “the worst disease you’ve never heard of.” Experts say the sharp increase is due somewhat to more diligent reporting and testing but that the trend is unmistakable.

Children of Mexican descent, some Asian subgroups, and impoverished children are affected by fatty liver disease at higher rates. However, the disease is seen in all racial and socioeconomic groups across the nation.1

Adult Diseases on the Rise in Children

Pediatric liver disease is just one of the diseases once seen almost exclusively in adult populations that is escalating among children. Hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and gallstones are plaquing more children in tandem with childhood obesity. Research published in The New England Journal of Medicine estimated that children today are expected to have shorter lifespans than their parents by an estimated 5 to 20 years and some doctors say the declining life expectancy is largely due to diseases related to environmental and behavioral factors, along with the consumption of processed foods.2

“Obesity is such that this generation of children could be the first basically in the history of the Western Civilization to live less healthful and shorter lives than their parents,” said David S. Ludwig, MD, Boston Children’s Hospital obesity program director. “We’re in the quiet before the storm,” he was quoted saying in 2005.3

Blame Put On Processed Foods, Environmental Toxins, Sedentary Lifestyles

The trends of adult diseases affecting children reflect many of the negative influences in society today , including highly processed foods, sedentary lifestyles, and high exposure to environmental toxins.

The liver is the largest solid organ in the body and is perhaps best known for its function to filter toxins. Small amounts of fat are normal in the liver, but if more than five percent of the liver cells contain fat, the liver’s ability to perform its job is impeded. Pediatric specialists have said that some children they have treated far exceed that number with between 30 to 40 percent fat, some even reaching as high as 60 percent fat.1 It is believed that exposure to negative influences, whether through poor nutritional food sources, pharmaceutical products, or toxic environmental exposures, may hinder the liver’s ability to functional optimally.

The Washington Post reports that doctors theorize that, in some individuals, a combination of genetics and exposure to ultra-processed foods that make up the majority of the American diet, triggers hormonal changes and unmanageable stressors on the body that result in chronic illnesses like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

“It creates a time bomb, and it is killing our kids,” said Barry Popkin, PhD, professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.1

Numbers of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease cases are continuing to increase at alarming rates in adult populations as well. In the U.S., cases are estimated to have increased from 83.1 million in 2015 to 100.9 million in 2030.1

Government Health Agencies Heavily Influenced by Big Food

The increase in cases of pediatric fatty liver disease came relatively suddenly, leaving professionals scrambling to better understand it’s etiology and seek a cure. Lifestyle related diseases are on the rise worldwide and many countries are increasing food industry regulations— banning chemicals known to be toxic such as titanium dioxide, food dyes and high fructose corn syrup.

But there has been criticism that the U.S. remains notoriously lackluster in its efforts and some are pointing to the lack of federal regulation of the food industry, alleging that government agencies seem more concerned with protecting corporations than they do with protecting the American people.

Questionable ties between U.S. government health agencies and the processed food industry are as old as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) itself and have long been a concern for consumer advocate groups and citizens alike.

Just last month, a report revealed that almost half of the members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) had received financial incentives from processed food companies, big agriculture, weight loss drug companies, and other corporate organizations. This is significant when considering that the DGAC’s guidelines influence nutrition labeling, how foods are formulated, how federal food aid is distributed, and what foods are served in hospitals, schools, and military facilities.4

“The last thing that a food or pharmaceutical company wants to have is a federal agency that says ‘Don’t buy this stuff, don’t buy those products,’” Raskin said. “That could potentially be a mortal threat to companies’ profit stream. So they are extremely attuned and sensitive to that possibility, and lobby in lots of ways to make sure that never happens.”5

Food Industry Funds Science Downplays Harms of Processed Foods

The food industry is also well known for funding scientific studies with predictable outcomes, which benefit their image and bottom line. Coca-Cola spends millions of dollars on scientific research that distracts from or downplays the harms of their products as a sort of public relations move to increase sales. They have been criticized for their funding of this type of science and the lucrative contracts with researchers that allow Coca-Cola to terminate or ask for revisions to any research that does not support the company’s desired findings.5
In 2012, Coca-Cola executive Katie Bayne said, “There is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity.”6

In addition to highly processed foods, some nutrition experts also question the no fat craze that was strongly promoted by government health agencies and physicians for decades. The notion that fat was to be avoided ushered in artificial substitutes to make up for the changes in consistency, taste, or color of the foods the fat was removed from. Studies suggest that this negatively impacted the microbiome.1

Corn Syrup Solids in Baby Formula Linked to Obesity, Fatty Liver

A more recent change in infant formula seems to also be a cause for alarm contributing to pediatric fatty liver disease: the use of corn syrup solids. For several years, the formula industry has been advertising this type of formula as a “sensitive” option for babies who seem to struggle to digest cow’s milk formulas.

Research suggests that infants fed formula made with corn syrup solids developed a “disrupted patterns of eating behavior” that made the babies fussier about food. Researchers found that babies fed the corn syrup formula were at significant increased risk for obesity and, by extension, fatty liver disease, by the age of four.  Infants who consumed the most formula with corn syrup solids had the highest risk for becoming obese children.1

Then 1980s trend of adding high fructose corn syrup to foods and soda coincided with the timeline of fatty liver disease influx in the general population.1 Still the FDA has determined that high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup solids—among a plethora of other questionable lab-made ingredients—are “safe” according to the science they choose to use to make their conclusions abut safety.

Tobacco and Food Industry Parallels

It is clear that researchers looking at the links between compromised food sources and fatty liver disease are concerned about these mixed messages, fueled largely by the industries that benefit from them.

The tobacco industry once operated from the same playbook. Companies marketing cigarettes paid scientists to deliver the right research and spent a lot of money to stop government action to label cigarettes as harmful and limit tobacco use. All the while, Big Tobacco manipulated and denied the addictive nature of their tobacco products and marketed to children to create lifelong consumers.

While some may see this comparison as extreme, the fact that there are increasing rates of obesity, fatty liver disease, and other formerly adult diseases in children speaks for itself.


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2 Responses

  1. As the revolving door keeps on swinging. It’s time to face up to the facts; Government safety advisors are beyond corrupt, absolutely unreliable, and have sold out to become propaganda outlets and salesmen for big agriculture and big chemical conglomerates. Or as we like to say in this house; The very last place we turn to for any product or food safety advisement is the government.

    The consumer challenge these days is to find safe unadulterated non processed foods which do not contain genetically modified ingredients, preservatives, or other toxic elements pervasive to mass volume manufacturers such as heavy metals, various contaminants, and stick to those brands instead. For those of you still holding to comfort labeling and brand loyalty, you are ‘doing it wrong.’ Read the labels, if it says ‘contains bio engineered ingredient’, set that product down immediately and find something else. If there are ingredients you do not understand, items you’d never in a million years keep in your own kitchen, set that product down immediately and find something else. Your hydrolyzed salts are literally one chemical bond away from being pure anti freeze like used in automobiles.

    ‘Food like substances.’ Buyer beware.
    https://www.cornucopia.org/scorecards/

    Please allow me to help. The Cornucopia Institutes food score cards are a great place to start. We’ve permanently switched brand choices from grain to eggs to milk based on these continually updated scorecards and will never turn back. You will be surprised to learn that many of your trusted brands are actually only providing an illusionary benefit while fleecing you from hard earned grocery store spending dollars. Trust the non gmo verified campaign labels, and look for them.

    The truth is eating simple staple foods is the winning play; you can get more food for less cost, more consistent meal planning, and be assured via bulk buy purchasing that you’re getting non adulterated foods for the majority of your meals. Additionally, the food industry is packed full of dirty secrets such as ingredients differences in the exact same product, based on where you buy the product. Such as the popular story of Doritos sold at Costco, containing far less dangerous substances than if purchased elsewhere. Just get a Costco membership, look for the organic foods there, bulk buy, switch to olive oil and real butter, kick everything with a diet label out of your kitchen permanently, avoid aspartame and diet sugars at all costs, and call it a day. The only restaurant we eat at with confidence is Chipotle.

    Interesting closing factoid for you; All the salts, all the processed ingredients, all the dangerous oils, all the genetically modified substances no matter how minute, the excess sugars, the corn syrup solids, the adulterated state of processed foods which renders the substances most difficult to digest, all of that is where fatty liver disease comes from. They’d all be better off drinking and smoking, far less damage to the body than a lifetime of adulterated foods. Pick your poison, your body only has so much capacity for dealing with toxic elements. Once you reach that limit, that’s when the real cascade of failing health begins and if you allow yourself to go that far, you’ll probably expire from some fatal illness or cancer event before you’d be able to successfully bio detox. The key term here is; bio toxic accumulation. Every individual food choice matters. If you’re new to the issues, start with the scorecards above and the better living through safer salts approach.

    https://www.selinanaturally.com/in-stock-items

  2. Parents have worried about unnecessary additives in food & drink for years. In Europe some American products are being altered because they do not allow banned substances in food without a warning emblazoned on the product. Glyphosate is in all wheat products in the U.S. but not allowed in many European countries! Why? It makes you sick! High fructose corn syrup from GMO corn, GMO corn fed to meat animals, certain dyes added to food, the list goes on and on. How about simply removing fluoride from our water supply? That would be a start.

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