Overweight Teenagers at Heightened Risk of Liver Disease


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Being overweight as a teenager may increase the risk for liver illness later in life, a new study has found.

Swedish researchers used data on more than 1.2 million young men ages 17 to 19 who were drafted into the military from 1969 to 1996, then linked the data to government health records.

At conscription, 104,137 were overweight, with a body mass index between 25 and 29, and 19,671 were obese (B.M.I. over 30).

The study, published in Gut, found 5,281 cases of severe liver disease and 251 cases of liver cancer over a median follow-up of 29 years.

As B.M.I. increased, so did the risk for liver disease. Compared with men with a B.M.I. of 18.5 to 22.5, those with a B.M.I. of 22.5 to 25 had a 17 percent greater risk, and those with a B.M.I. of 25 to 30 had a 49 percent increased risk. Having a B.M.I. over 30 more than doubled the risk. When the researchers excluded people with hepatitis or alcoholic liver disease, the results were unchanged.

“The message here is that you can get liver disease, even severe liver disease, by being overweight,” said the lead author, Dr. Hannes Hagstrom, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. “This risk is probably there from an early point in life, and we need interventions early so we don’t get this time bomb later.”

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