From: Reuters
Published April 17, 2008 04:13 PM

Dad's early obesity tied to liver disease in kids

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Having a father who becomes obese at a relatively young age may increase a person's risk of developing serious liver problems, a new study shows.

Individuals whose fathers were obese before age 45 were more likely than those whose parents were not obese to have high levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) in their blood, an enzyme that signals liver injury, Dr. Rohit Loomba of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland and colleagues found.

High ALT levels in the general population can be associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, an obesity-related condition, Loomba and his team say. One severe, progressive form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, which can lead to cirrhosis and even liver cancer, they note in the medical journal Gastroenterology.

To investigate whether parental obesity might be related to high ALT levels, as well as levels of another enzyme related to liver damage, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), the researchers looked at measurements of both enzymes in 1,732 men and women participating in the Framingham Heart Study.

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The researchers divided study participants into three groups: people whose parents became obese unusually early (before age 41 for women and before age 45 for men), those with parents who became obese later on, and those with parents who were never obese.

Having a father with early-onset obesity increased a person's likelihood of having elevated ALT levels, regardless of their own weight, the researchers found. But there was no link between maternal obesity and ALT levels, and no relationship at all between parental obesity and AST levels.

Developing a condition like obesity early can indicate genetic susceptibility to that condition, the researchers note in their report. The findings suggest that genes that promote early-onset obesity could also influence ALT levels, they add.

"These results support the need for further studies to establish whether individuals with early-onset parental obesity and elevated serum ALT levels are at a higher risk for developing progressive liver disease such as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis," the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: Gastroenterology, April 2008.

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