Too Young to Be So Old

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A huge percentage of overweight children have symptoms of adult-onset disease, such as fatty liver and elevated visceral fat, according to a study from the University of Manitoba. Researchers investigated the roles of sugar and fat intake in overweight teenagers (14- to 16-years-old) on the incidence of fatty liver (hepatic steatosis) and visceral obesity (fat accumulation around organs associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and the metabolic syndrome). Results showed that 43% of the teens had fatty liver and 44% had excessive visceral fat. Fried food consumption was more common in teens with fatty liver. Teens who consumed more than 35% of calories as fat were the most prone to fatty liver. Refined carbohydrate and frequent consumption of soda was positively linked with visceral fat accumulation. 

In Perspective: Previous research shows that fructose, especially high-fructose corn syrup, is more likely than other calories to aim for deep belly fat, or visceral fat. Fructose appears to raise levels of liver and muscle fat, and increase the risk for insulin resistance, which is a stepping stone to diabetes. In one study, liver and muscle fat doubled in those people who drank the most fructose-sweetened beverages. 

Mollard R, Senechal M, MacIntosh A, et al: Dietary determinants of hepatic steatosis and visceral adiposity in overweight and obese youth at risk of type 2 diabetes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2014;99:804-812.

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