Non=Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Prevalence Higher Among Latinx Children Due To Food Insecurity

In Education

A recent study indicated a significant link between childhood food insecurity and a higher likelihood of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in Latinx children. NAFLD, affecting 5-10% of US children, has surged in pediatric cases recently. This condition poses serious health risks such as cirrhosis, cancer, and the necessity for organ transplants.

Food insecurity among Hispanic families on the rise

The study conducted in 2022 found that food insecurity among children in Hispanic households increased significantly to 13.2% from 9.7% in 2021, surpassing rates in Black and White households. The prevalence of food insecurity was higher among Black households (16% in 2022, up from 12% in 2021) and significantly lower among White households (5.5% in 2022, up from 3.4% in 2021). This highlights the pressing need to address food insecurity in the Hispanic community, especially considering their heightened susceptibility to fatty liver disease compared to White and Black individuals.

Dr. Sarah Maxwell from University of California-San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospitals and lead author of the study emphasized the link between food insecurity and liver issues, particularly in Latinx children. She explained that while studies in adults have shown this association, research in children is limited. This is significant given the high prevalence of food insecurity and fatty liver disease among Latinx children.

Food insecurity heightens risk of NAFLD

The research suggests early screening for metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD) in children, advocating beyond current guidelines that focus on obesity. The UCSF team followed two cohorts of Latinx mothers and children from pregnancy to mid-childhood, starting in 2006-07 and 2011-13. They used the US Household Food Security Food Module to measure food insecurity at age four and assessed fatty liver disease between ages five and 12.

Researchers revealed that 29% of children faced food insecurity at age four, while 27% developed fatty liver disease in early to middle childhood. Children from food-insecure households were over twice as likely to develop fatty liver disease compared to those from secure households. Moreover, food insecurity at age four significantly increased the chances of developing the disease by age 12.

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