Title: Risk factors and cardio-metabolic outcomes associated with metabolic-associated fatty liver disease in childhood
Source: eClinicalMedicine 2023, 65: 102248
Date of publication: October 2023
Publication type: Article
Abstract: Background: Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is defined as increased liver fat percentage, and is the most common chronic liver disease in children. Rather than NAFLD, Metabolic-Associated Fatty Liver Disease (MAFLD), defined as increased liver fat with presence of adverse cardio-metabolic measures, might have more clinical relevance in children. We assessed the prevalence, risk-factors and cardio-metabolic outcomes of MAFLD at school-age.
Methods: This cross-sectional analysis was embedded in an ongoing population-based prospective cohort study started in 2001, in the Netherlands. In 1910 children of 10 years, we measured liver fat fraction by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, and lipids, insulin, and glucose concentrations. Childhood lifestyle factors were obtained through questionnaires. MAFLD was defined as ≥2% liver fat in addition to excess adiposity (BMI or visceral adiposity), presence of metabolic risk (blood pressure, triglycerides and HDL-concentrations) or prediabetes (glucose).
Findings: Of all children, 49.6% had ≥2% liver fat, and 25.2% fulfilled the criteria of MAFLD. Only non-European descent was associated with increased odds of MAFLD at nominal significance (Odds Ratio 1.38, 95% Confidence Interval 1.04, 1.82). Compared to children with <2% liver fat, those with MAFLD had increased odds of cardio-metabolic-risk-factor clustering (Odds Ratio 7.65, 95% Confidence Interval 5.04, 11.62).
Interpretation: In this study, no NAFLD-associated childhood risk factors were associated with increased odds of childhood MAFLD, yet the findings suggest that ethnicity could be, despite mostly explained by socio-economic factors. Use of MAFLD criteria, rather than NAFLD, may identify children at risk for impaired cardio-metabolic health.