Link Between Metabolic Syndrome and Liver Disease
A research team led by Rose Graham, MD, found a strong association between metabolic syndrome – a complication of obesity – and elevated levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) – a liver enzyme associated with a potentially severe disease called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In a nationally representative sample of 1,323 U.S. adolescents aged 12 to 19, the link between metabolic syndrome and elevated ALT levels was present in adolescent males but not in adolescent females. Among Hispanic males this association was largely explained by obesity measured by body mass index. However, among non-Hispanic males metabolic syndrome and high ALT levels were associated with each other independent of obesity, suggesting that obesity is not the only risk factor for NAFLD among boys with metabolic syndrome. This finding, published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, suggests that treating NAFLD may require more than just weight loss, the only currently known treatment.