Obesity-related fatty liver disease impacts long-term adolescent liver health. We examined transient elastography assessed hepatic steatosis and fibrosis distributions and relationships with body composition and lifestyle factors in a United States national adolescent population sample.
Liver stiffness and controlled attenuation parameter (CAP) were assessed on 1080 non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic Asian, and Hispanic boys and girls aged 12–19 years in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2017–2018. Participants underwent anthropometry and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA).
Compared with girls, boys had higher mean CAP (223.7 dB/m vs 215.3 dB/m) and liver stiffness (5.1 kPa vs 4.9 kPa). CAP and liver stiffness increased markedly with body mass index (BMI). In multivariable-adjusted analysis, CAP in the upper quartile was associated with Hispanic and non-Hispanic Asian ethnicity and increased BMI, waist-to-hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, and sedentary time, and decreased physical activity and Healthy Eating Index-2015 score. In multivariable-adjusted analysis, liver stiffness in the upper quartile was associated with male sex, non-Hispanic black ethnicity, and increased BMI, alanine aminotransferase, CAP, and serum cotinine. DXA total percent fat and trunk fat percent were positively related to CAP (P < 0.001 for each), but not to liver stiffness with multivariable adjustment. Results were similar with CAP and liver stiffness as continuous characteristics.
In US adolescents, increased anthropometric and DXA body composition measures and lifestyle factors were associated with higher CAP and liver stiffness. Transient elastography and similar noninvasive markers may be utilized for early detection of liver disease in high-risk pediatric populations.