In Western countries, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become the most common chronic liver disorder and a common cause of death. An early detection of NAFLD is critical, which is why researchers from Mexico now present a new non-invasive diagnostic method.
By Eréndira Villanueva Ortega
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterized by an excessive accumulation of fat in the liver and often associated with obesity. If the disease is not diagnosed and remains untreated, liver damage can develop into cirrhosis and consequently to liver cancer.
Currently, a liver biopsy is the only reliable method to diagnose NAFLD. The procedure includes the extraction of a liver fragment and subsequent analysis by a pathologist, who will determine the degree of fat infiltration. Other non-invasive imaging studies may suggest NAFLD. However, there are no specific symptoms or tools that can guide the diagnosis during medical consultation.
Some studies have already shown the utility of measuring neck circumference to identify metabolic syndrome and its components (obesity, high blood pressure, alterations of lipids and glucose) in children and adults. Since metabolic syndrome is frequently associated with NAFLD, a recent study aimed to investigate the association between neck circumference and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
The researchers from Mexico found that obese boys with NAFLD had a larger neck circumference than obese boys without NAFLD, though they did not find the same difference in girls. The study results furthermore allowed the researchers to establish cut-off points for the identification of NAFLD in prepubertal and pubertal children.
“We expect that a cheap and easily accessible tool such as a measuring tape could be used in the doctor’s office and could help to detect children with a risk of NAFLD”, the researchers say.
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Rubén Peña-Vélez, Nayely Garibay-Nieto, Manuel Cal-y-Mayor-Villalobos, Estibalitz Laresgoiti-Servitje, Karen Pedraza-Escudero, María del Carmen García-Blanco, Omar Alfonso Heredia-Nieto and Eréndira Villanueva-Ortega: Association between neck circumference and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in Mexican children and adolescents with obesity, 16.12.2019.