Liver disease could affect the lives of more than 500,000 young people because of childhood obesity, according to one government expert.
The national clinical director for liver at the Department of Health, Professor Martin Lombard, warned that England is facing a liver disease “timebomb”.
A quarter of children aged four and five are overweight or obese, putting them at risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
This occurs when fat builds up in the liver, causing inflammation and swelling and in some cases, it can lead to potentially fatal cirrhosis of the liver.
According to government figures, around 500,000 children aged four to 14 could be at risk of liver disease, including 60,000 10 year olds.
The problem is set to worsen as obesity grows, with experts predicting that by 2050, 63% of children will be obese.
Sarah Matthews, from the British Liver Trust, said: “Even though alcohol is regarded as the key cause of liver disease in the UK, weight-related liver damage is set to become a huge public health problem where, if the projections hold true, obesity could overtake alcohol as the biggest single driver of cirrhosis in the future.”