SSM Health Medical Minute: Youth Liver Disease

ST. LOUIS - Obesity can damage the livers of children as young as eight, according to a new study.

Researchers at Columbia University say this is the first study to show that weight gain has a negative impact on the liver in young children.

Doctor Ajay Jain, a pediatric gastroenterologist at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, said obesity can put kids at risk for liver damage.

"Once there is fat in the liver, in some patients, this causes liver inflammation, liver scarring to the point it could lead to liver failure," he said.

SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital says a transplant is the last option treatment. A healthy lifestyle diet and physical activity leading to weight loss can reverse fatty liver disease.

"We have at Cardinal Glennon a very robust weight management program which is manned by several specialists it’s a multi-team approach and it seems naturally to work the best," Dr. Jain said.

But if a transplant is needed, Dr. Jain says the patient can see a dramatic improvement in a short time.

"In a week or 10 days, sometimes a little longer, they are up and running and doing their normal activities," he said. "So, it's humbling and you have mixed feelings as a physician because you know where these livers are coming from but on the flip side its generating life."