Young men who are overweight or obese could be at an increased risk of developing severe liver disease or liver cancer in later life, a study has reported.
Swedish scientists discovered that men in late adolescence with a high BMI were more likely to develop these liver problems than those of a normal weight. Overweight adolescents were also at greater risk of type 2 diabetes.
The research team from Karolinska University Hospital said: “This could have implications for public health decision making, strengthening the need of targeted intervention against overweight and obesity at an early age and specifically highlights the risk of type 2 diabetes as a risk factor for liver disease.
“Interventions to reduce the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity should be implemented from an early age to reduce the future burden of severe liver disease on individuals and society.”
The Karolinska team based this study on previous research showing that high BMI in adolescent men was linked to an increased risk of death for end-stage liver disease.
In this new research, they set out to investigate how BMI in these adolescents impacted any liver problems during adulthood.
Data was analysed from over 1.2 million Swedish males, aged 17 to 19 years old, between 1969 and 1996, with information on severe liver disease, liver cancer and type 2 diabetes also assessed.
The men who were obese were almost twice as likely to develop liver disease in later life than overweight men, and four times as likely to have liver problems compared to men of a healthy weight.
Obese men who went on to develop type 2 diabetes had an even higher risk of liver problems compared with normal weight men without diabetes.
The researchers added: “Screening of men with type 2 diabetes mellitus for presence of manifest liver disease using non-invasive, inexpensive scoring systems could be a way forward.”
But they added that as this was study was observational, no solid conclusions can be drawn identifying a causal relationship between obesity and liver problems.
The study was published online in the journal Gut.

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