Obese teenagers more at risk of liver disease

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Being overweight as a teenager may increase the risk for liver illness or liver cancer in the later stages of their life, a new study has found.

The findings, led by researchers at the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden, showed that obese men were more than twice as likely to develop liver disease in later life than men with normal weight.

A high body mass index (BMI) is also associated with increasing the risk for Type 2 diabetes, which is, in turn, linked to a higher risk of severe liver disease. Men with obesity and Type 2 diabetes were more than three times more likely to have liver problems when they were older compared with non-diabetic and normal weighing men, the researchers said.

Swedish researchers used data on more than 1.2 million young men ages 17 to 19 who were drafted into the military from 1969 to 1996, then linked the data to government health records.

At conscription, 104,137 were overweight, with a body mass index between 25 and 29, and 19,671 were obese (B.M.I.

over 30).

The study, published in Gut, found 5,281 cases of severe liver disease and 251 cases of liver cancer over a median follow-up of 29 years.

“This could have implications for public health decision making, strengthening the need of targeted intervention against overweight and obesity at an early age and specifically highlights the risk of Type 2 diabetes mellitus as a risk factor for liver disease,” said Hannes Hagstrom from the Karolinska University Hospital.

Overweight and obesity levels are increasing globally and around 1 billion people are now projected to be obese (defined as having a BMI higher than 30 kg/m2) by 2030, the research published in the journal Gut noted.

“Interventions to reduce the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity should be implemented from an early age to reduce the future burden of severe liver disease on individuals and society,” Hagstrom said.

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