Prevalence and associated factors of metabolic-associated fatty liver disease in overweight Finnish children and adolescents

Hanna Riekki, Linnea Aitokari, Laura Kivelä, Siiri Lahti, Pauliina Hiltunen, Nina Vuorela, Heini Huhtala, Timo A. Lakka, Kalle Kurppa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: Data on the prevalence of pediatric fatty liver disease remain limited, partly due to challenges in diagnosis. A novel concept of metabolic-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) makes it possible to establish the diagnosis in overweight children with sufficiently elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT). We investigated the prevalence, risk factors, and metabolic co-morbidities of MAFLD in a large group of overweight children.
Methods: Data on 703 patients aged 2-16 years examined due to overweight in different levels of healthcare in 2002-2020 were collected retrospectively from patient records. MAFLD was here defined as ALT > 2x reference (> 44 U/l in girls and > 50 U/l in boys) in overweight children according to recently updated definition. Patients with MAFLD and without it were compared, and subgroup analyses were conducted among boys and girls.
Results: Median age was 11.5 years, and 43% were girls. Altogether 11% were overweight, 42% obese and 47% severely obese. Abnormal glucose metabolism was present in 44%, dyslipidemia in 51%, hypertension in 48% and type 2 diabetes (T2D) in 2%. MAFLD prevalence varied between 14-20% in examined years without significant change (p=0.878). The pooled prevalence over the years was 15% (boys 18%, girls 11%; p=0.018), peaking in girls at early puberty and increasing in boys with age and puberty. Associated factors in boys were T2D (OR 7.55, 95% CI 1.23-46.2), postpubertal stage (5.39, 2.26-12.8), increased fasting insulin (3.20, 1.44-7.10), hypertriglyceridemia (2.97, 1.67-5.30), hyperglycemia (2.88, 1.64-5.07), decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (2.16, 1.18-3.99), older age (1.28, 1.15-1.42) and higher body-mass-index (1.01, 1.05-1.15), and in girls T2D (18.1, 3.16-103), hypertriglyceridemia (4.28, 1.99-9.21), and decreased HDL (4.06, 1.87-8.79).
Conclusion: Prevalence of MAFLD was 15%, with no statistically significant increase in the 2000s. The condition was associated in general with male gender, puberty stage and disturbances in glucose and lipid metabolism, and higher age and BMI in boys.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1090344
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • alanine aminotransferase
  • children
  • diabetes
  • dyslipidemia
  • glucose intolerance
  • obesity

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1


Dive into the research topics of 'Prevalence and associated factors of metabolic-associated fatty liver disease in overweight Finnish children and adolescents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this