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Overweight children with gene mutation at risk of liver problems

Written by | 10 Jul 2014 | All Medical News

World Health Matters: Finland by Gary Finnegan – A new study by Finnish researchers suggests that overweight children with a common mutation in the PNPLA3 gene can suffer liver metabolism irregularities which affect them through their lives.

Overweight children who carry the mutation have elevated ALAT values – an indicator of liver metabolism – and could be on the road to serious ill-health in later life. In adults, PNPLA3 mutations are known to promote accumulation of fat in the liver.

The new results suggest that a healthy lifestyle in childhood can help to prevent the accumulation of fat in the liver, and that maintaining a healthy weight is especially important for those carrying the risk gene. The study, published in Pediatric Obesity, was conducted at the Institute of Biomedicine of the University of Eastern Finland.

The PNPLA3 gene mutation prevents the breakdown of triglycerides in the liver and promotes the accumulation of fat. The accumulation of fat in the liver is known to have several detrimental effects. It can result in decreased insulin sensitivity in the liver, making the overweight-induced problems in glucose and lipid metabolism worse.

The significance of the research findings for public health is emphasised by the fact that 41% of the children who participated in the study were carriers of the PNPLA3 gene mutation associated with fatty liver, and 15% of the children were overweight.

The study included 481 healthy 6-to-8 year-old girls and boys from the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study, PANIC. The Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study is an on-going lifestyle intervention study, which produces valuable information on children’s lifestyles, health and well-being all the way into adulthood.

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