Childhood Physical Activity Levels Tied to Risk for Liver Disease in Young Adults

Increasing physical activity in childhood tied to reduced risk for severe liver steatosis and liver cirrhosis
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

WEDNESDAY, June 19, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Increasing physical activity during childhood may independently lower the risk for liver disease in young adulthood, according to a study published online May 29 in npj Gut and Liver.

Andrew O. Agbaje, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., from the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio, used data from 2,684 children (aged 11 years) participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children who had accelerometer data from at least one follow-up timepoint.

Agbaje found that the prevalence of liver steatosis was 2.6 percent at age 17 years and 20.5 percent at age 24 years. There was an association between a cumulative one-minute/day increase in sedentary time from ages 11 to 24 years and higher odds of liver cirrhosis (odds ratio [OR], 1.004) and severe liver steatosis (OR, 1.001) at age 24 years. Progressively increased alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and γ-glutamyl transferase (GGT) from ages 17 to 24 years was associated with increased childhood sedentary time. Lower odds of liver cirrhosis (OR, 0.990) and severe liver steatosis (OR, 0.999) at age 24 years were seen with cumulative one-minute/day light physical activity. Lower odds of severe liver steatosis (OR, 0.996) were also seen with cumulative one-minute/day moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at age 24 years. Increased fat mass significantly suppressed the effect of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity on lowering liver steatosis (64 percent suppression).

"The most effective antidote to the devastating health effects of childhood sedentariness is not the much-advertised moderate-to-vigorous physical activity of 60 minutes per day," Agbaje said in a statement. "Rather, it is the overlooked light-intensity physical activity of three to four hours per day."

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