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Liver disease timebomb warning

Hundreds of thousands of children face the risk of life-threatening liver disease related to excess weight and obesity, according to an expert.

Nearly 500,000 young people in England are under threat from a liver disease timebomb as they battle weight problems arising from overeating, says Professor Martin Lombard, National Clinical Director for Liver Disease at the Department of Health.

Being overweight can result in fat accumulation in the liver causing inflammation and impairing the functions of the organ.

Known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, this can lead in some cases to potentially fatal cirrhosis of the liver.

Although commonly associated with excessive alcohol consumption, liver cirrhosis can also result from excess weight gain and obesity.

Figures show that half a million children aged between four and 14 may be at risk of having too much fat in the liver and associated problems in later life.

Around 60,000 youngsters whose lives are at risk are aged 10, while a quarter of four to five-year-olds are currently overweight or obese.

Unless the problem of poor diet and the culture of overeating is addressed, by 2050 around 63% of children will be obese, experts warn.

Professor Lombard said: "We know that with childhood obesity on the rise we can expect more children to be at risk of fatty liver disease in the near future."

Copyright © Press Association 2011