What's driving the increase in liver disease in children

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Miriam Vos, MD:
What's driving the increase in liver disease in children
December 18, 2008

Little research has been conducted on the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in children. Yet Miriam Vos, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics (gastroenterology) in Emory University School of Medicine and a physician at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, treats a growing number of children with the disease. The illness, which often is associated with obesity, occurs when fat deposits itself in the liver. It eventually can lead to inflammation, cirrhosis and even liver failure.

In the hopes of preventing fatty liver disease, Vos, a pediatric hepatologist, is conducting research into its origins. She suspects a diet high in sugar and too little exercise are tied to its onset. Vos has just written a book aimed at helping children and their families shed pounds and achieve better nutrition through changes in lifestyle and diet.

"I think we've been really focused on studying fat, and the research just hasn't been done in the same way with sugar," Vos says. "We went back and looked at the latest national nutrition survey and we quantified how much sugar the general population and children were getting. And it's really increased. When we looked at a comparison from 1980 to 1990, we see that the fructose intake in children was around 12 percent of their calories — a huge portion."

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