Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is now the most common chronic liver disease in children. Both genetic and nutritional factors are thought to influence the progression and development of the disease. Previous studies have raised the question of whether improving vitamin D status through diet or supplements may benefit patients.
The study was a collaboration between the University of Leeds, University of Surrey and King's College Hospital. The King’s researchers involved in the study are Dr Emer Fitzpatrick, Dr Anil Dhawan, Dr Alberto Quaglia and Dr Pippa Gibson.
The team of scientists examined the vitamin D levels in children with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease over a 12-month period. The study found most children in the cohort had insufficient vitamin D levels throughout the year, with severe vitamin D deficiency during the winter months.
This is the first study to find a relationship between genetic variations in the vitamin D metabolic pathway and the severity of liver damage in UK children. The researchers found that polymorphisms in the vitamin D related genetic variants NADSYN1/DHCR7 and VDR were independently associated with increased liver fat while a GC variant was associated with increased inflammation in liver biopsies.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, now the most common form of chronic liver disease in children and young people, is about more than just overweight and obesity. We know surprisingly little about susceptibility to the more progressive form of this condition. This paper contributes to the body of evidence linking genetic susceptibility to development and progression of the disease.– Dr Emer Fitzpatrick