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Hospitals see twice as many children with fatty liver disease as in 2013, NHS figures show

'It is not known as a killer disease for nothing' say experts of alarming increase

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Sunday 05 May 2019 19:23 BST
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Fatty liver disease caused by long-term excessive calorie consumption
Fatty liver disease caused by long-term excessive calorie consumption (winnond/Shutterstock)

The number of children being hospitalised with fatty liver disease in England has more than doubled since 2013, according to NHS statistics showing the impact of the UK’s obesity crisis.

NHS Digital statistics show that 195 under-18s were admitted to hospital with the problem last year, a rise from 96 cases reported in 2013-14.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by long-term excessive calorie consumption where the body has to begin storing excess energy as fat in the organs, which can damage the liver’s function.

Over time this increases the risk of cancers and scarring, and a transplant may be required.

The figures were released in a parliamentary question by health minister Seema Kennedy.

Bristol University experts have warned about a “liver disease time bomb” affecting one in five people in their 20s.

While the latest figures do not distinguish between children ending up in hospital with alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, experts said they were likely to be an underestimate of the true issue.

Tam Fry, chair of the National Obesity Forum, described the admissions data for fatty liver disease as “horrific”.

“It is not known as a killer disease for nothing,” he told the Sunday Times. “The excess fat in the liver acts as a toxin, inflaming cells, and may go on to cause cirrhosis, cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

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