Fructose Implicated in Rampant Childhood Fatty Liver Disease

Fructose Implicated in Rampant Childhood Fatty Liver Disease post image

Did you ever hear of fatty liver disease in children? This is a disease that develops in adults, usually from alcoholism or as a result of hepatitis infection. Recently, researchers discovered that 1 in 10 American children have this disease. That’s something to worry about.

In fatty liver disease, the liver becomes infiltrated with fat cells. In people who do not drink, it is called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.  This can progress to a more dangerous condition called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) — where the liver cells are inflamed and damaged. NASH also may also lead to cirrhosis of the liver, when liver becomes scarred and non- functional.

Conventional Medicine Not Sure of the Cause

The experts say that while the rising obesity rate in children is part of the reason, they have found that many of the children are of normal weight.

As there are no symptoms, the condition is usually found because a blood test was preformed for other reasons, such as checking cholesterol and blood glucose levels if a child is obese. If they happen to include a liver panel, the elevated liver enzymes will show up.

Because there are generally no symptoms, the disease can progress unchecked for years until adulthood when serious liver problems may have already developed.

According to Miriam Vos, a pediatrics professor at Emory University School of Medicine who studies and treats kids with fatty liver disease,

This is just really worrisome to have this number of children who have a disease this severe.

Dr. Vos suspects a connection between too much sugar in the diet of these children and the condition.

I think we’ve been really focused on studying fat, and the research just hasn’t been done in the same way with sugar… We went back and looked at the latest national nutrition survey and we quantified how much sugar the general population and children were getting. And it’s really increased. When we looked at a comparison from 1980 to 1990, we see that the fructose intake in children was around 12 percent of their calories — a huge portion.

Dr. Vos et al conducted a study this year looking for elevated liver enzymes. According to her research, the percentage of children in the sample suspected of having the disease grew from about 4% between 1988 and 1994 to 10.7% between 2007 and 2010.

NASH is the third most common reason, following alcoholism and hepatitis C, for having a liver transplant.

Fructose Is a Culprit

Dr. Vos had indicated that among other factors, such as genetics, ethnicity (Mexican-Americans seem to be susceptible), obesity and insulin resistance, diet may also play a role.

It’s clear that there is more consumption of fructose in the Standard American Diet then ever before. Including High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which is disguised under several names.

Where is all this fructose coming from?

Fruit Juices and Soda provide plenty of fructose

If you eat processed foods and drink even one soft drink a day, you are getting way more fructose than you should, as HFCS is in many processed foods and sodas and will add quite a high amount of fructose and cause weight gain.

Fruit juices also have a great deal of fructose, almost as much as soda. I have never been a big fan of fruit juice as it is empty sugar calories without any nutrition and highly glycemic. Having all that fructose makes it even less appealing.

In general, an 8 ounce glass of fruit juice has about 25 gms of sugar which means it has about 12 gms of fructose. In comparison, a 12 ounce can of soda has about 40 gms of sugar and about 20 gms of fructose. You can see how easy it is to over indulge in fructose when you are drinking these sweet drinks.

How much fructose is safe?

While much of the research into this question is obscure, a growing body of research suggests that greater than 50 grams of fructose a day is detrimental and may start to cause Metabolic Syndrome and all the consequent problems. However, some suggest that 25 grams should be the limit, and for people with known Metabolic Syndrome or it’s risk factors, 15 grams of fructose a day.

Standard American Diet is Full of Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup

Clearly, the increase in fatty liver disease in children is due, in part, by the increased use of high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener in many processed foods. Children are obese because of the over consumption of HFCS in fruit juices and sodas, as well as candy and other packaged foods.

This increase in the use of HFCS coincides with the increase in the occurrence of fatty liver disease in children. With the misguided insistence of offering children low fat foods, removing fat makes the food tastes awful. In order to make it palatable, food manufactures add sugar and HFCS to many packaged foods.

Just Eat Real Food

If health officials would stop supporting the food industry and insist on feeding kids real food, with good wholesome fats, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in today.

Get rid of all the sugary processed foods and get real! What do you think about this? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Shared at: Thank Your Body Thursday, Hearth & Soul Hop, Mommy Club, Real Food Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday

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Leave a Comment

  • Beth September 12, 2013, 9:03 am

    Great post. You may have mentioned this in another post but just in case… Here is a wonderful talk about sugar and the liver:

    • Jill September 12, 2013, 10:37 am

      Hi Beth,
      Yes, I talk about Lustig’s video in this post:

      Sugar: Much Worse Than We Thought — linked above

  • Linda @ Axiom at Home September 17, 2013, 11:38 am

    Very interesting topic. We stay away from soda completely, but do drink a little juice. You mention above that fruit juice is filled with empty sugar calories without any nutrition and it is highly glycemic. Would this apply similarly to both the quality store-bought juices and homemade juices? This may be a stupid question, but are fructose levels the same in homemade juices as in store bought juices? Interesting article!

    Thank you, Linda

    • Jill September 17, 2013, 1:01 pm

      Hi Linda,
      I do not know if store bought juices have higher amounts of fructose — certainly if they have added sugars they would — probably HFCS. But still, juices from fruit will have fructose — still a controversial issue that needs to be investigated — whether and how much becomes bad. However, they are still highly glycemic if taken without anything else and do not have much in the way of nutrition.

      Freshly made vegetable juices are different and are good.

  • Aurelia September 21, 2013, 1:16 pm

    Interesting post. Since moving to America I’ve had to really start reading labels (something I didn’t need to do as much in England), and I refuse to buy anything with HFCS in. It makes shopping more time consuming, but more people need to boycot the disgusting stuff.

    I do disagree about all fruit juice being bad though – I think it will depend on if it is a fruit juice drink (which has all kinds of things added to it), or just fruit juice (and again this will vary if it’s freshly squeezed, contains pulp, is from concentrate, etc etc). I would say moderation is key though in any case, but having fruit juice (even just one glass a day) is a good way to boost vitamin intake and is definitely better for you than soda or tea/coffee.

    Interesting read though! I found your post via the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop this week 🙂