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10% of U.S. Teens Have Liver Disease…Why?

Elizabeth Renter
October 6th, 2012
Updated 10/31/2012 at 9:18 pm
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digestivesystem 235x147 10% of U.S. Teens Have Liver Disease...Why?Did you know about 10% of teenagers have liver disease. The figure would be unbelievable if it wasn’t substantiated with solid science. But, it’s true—an estimated one-in-ten teens in the United States has nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD; this according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The NHANES looked at over 10,300 teens between the ages of 12 and 18 from 1998 to 2008, and found that 9.9% suffer from the disease commonly only thought of as an adult disease, and a rare one at that.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease has always been associated with obesity, and as we see a growing number of kids who are obese, it would make sense that we would see a growing number with liver disease. But, scientist Marilyn Vos, of Emery University, says the NHANES found incidents of NAFLD among teens to actually be growing faster than teen obesity rates. This is truly cause for alarm.

The Cause of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

So, what’s causing the liver disease? All evidence points to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Fructose seriously taxes the liver, where it is completely metabolized. For perspective: only 20% of glucose, on the other hand, is metabolized in the liver. According to, fructose also results in storing three times more fat than glucose, making kids fatter to boot.

But isn’t fructose a natural fruit sugar? Yes it is, but when it is present in fruits or vegetables, in its natural state, it is released slowly for optimal digestion. In HFCS, on the other hand, it is delivered to the digestive system in one quick-acting dose.

So, what does this growing prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in teens mean? It means children are consuming too much high fructose corn syrup. We are destroying their bodies with packaged and over-processed foods. In the name of convenience—we are killing the youth. Needless to say, it is extremely important know of the many foods with high fructose corn syrup so that they can be avoided.

Fatty liver disease can lead to diabetes, hepatitis, cancer, and cirrhosis. A diseased liver affects the body’s ability to digest food, metabolize hormones, regulate blood sugar, eliminate toxins, and store vitamin A.

As we live in a system where the almighty dollar is king, feeding the children nutritious food is difficult. Not only are they tempted at every turn, but access to truly healthful selections is very limited. If it isn’t in its completely natural state, it likely has some very questionable ingredients.

And who is to blame for this? A combination of parties, but giant agribusiness, including the corn industry, certainly holds more than their fair share of the responsibility.

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  • Jim

    I don't think it's got anything to do with HFCS. It's actually due to vitamin deficiency. A diagnosis of NAFLD should first result in a thorough examination to determine if the patient has any nutritional deficiencies, e.g. folate, B12, vitamin C, etc. Unfortunately, the tests used to determine vitamin deficiency are not very accurate and such deficiencies are missed.

    I have personal experience of this. I was diagnosed with NAFLD but wasn't tested properly for vitamin deficiencies. I then discovered them for myself, treated them and now my liver has recovered and is perfectly healthy. I am overweight and haven't lost any weight either so it has nothing whatsoever to do with obesity either.

    We are in the middle of an epidemic of vitamin and mineral deficiency and it's this which is causing all of these diseases including obesity.

    • RippedOff?

      To say HFCS has "nothing to do with" fatty liver disease is like saying too much alcohol has nothing to do with liver disease.

      High doses of Fructose can be very stressful on the Liver (just like alcohol) and vitamin/mineral dificiencies add to the problems.

      (Being overweight isn't as bad for the liver as feeding the liver things it doesn't like.)

      • Jim

        Excessive alcohol consumption causes folate and B12 deficiency which leads to malnutrition and this is what damages the liver.

        Again, I repeat, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are the cause of the liver damage. Resolve the malnutrition and the liver recovers.

        HFCS doesn't damage the liver, IMHO, nor does obesity. Obesity is a symptom of the malnutrition, not the cause of the liver damage.

    • Anonymous

      How did you get better? What did you take to help you?

  • RippedOff?

    And the healthy people who avoid this junk and excersize are supposed to pay for the Obamacare insurance of the irresponsible?

    Shouldn't it be the other way around?

  • Tammy

    The federal government subsidizes corn producers encouraging them to produce huge quantities of corn, as well as soybeans and such. I wonder what would happen if farmers grew what people wanted to eat naturally without this interference? (Note: With the government subsidies, we all pay for this out of pocket through taxes for this "cheaper" food that taxes our bodies, as well.)

    In this article, it points to the "fructose" in HFCS being the culprit. That is interesting, because I know that our families used to make more pies that what we eat using regular corn syrup or a simple syrup made from plain sugar and water. In looking up information on regular corn syrup, I found that it is primarily "glucose," not "fructose."

    The advertisement that gets my goat is that "Sugar is sugar. Our bodies can't tell a difference." Obviously, they can if our livers have to process all the excess fructose that would not be present in a basic simple syrup from cane sugar, beet sugar, honey, or other forms of sugars we commonly use. (Note: According to, which is funded by the Corn Refiners Association, they state that HFCS is metabalized in the same way that regular sugar is. See: They do have a linke about "Sugar in Moderation," but with HFCS pervasive in so much of our food, that is a challenge.)

    Additionally, for our family with two children with food allergies to corn, I have found that HFCS results in more issues than other corn-based foods. They can handle small amounts of regular corn or corn syrup but break out in anything ranging from a rash to hives with HFCS. (Note: The hives occurred after our younger daughter ate a few (3-6) PB Sandwich Girl Scout cookies that DH shared with her. She's not allergic to peanuts, but when we got to looking, there were a huge number of corn-based contents that we were not expecting.) What do we do? Anytime a new product comes out that we like and use that does not include HFCS, we call the manufacturer and tell them, "Thank you!" and tell them why that is important to us. Especially considering the corn allergy, that also makes a difference. We choose products like Hunt's Ketchup, Nestle Quick, and Log Cabin Original syrup with no HFCS. It makes a difference for those manufacturers to get calls from us to let them know that it is important to us and that we will continue to buy their product and choose their product because they do not use HFCS.

    HFCS is pervasive in our foods. I would like to say that it is in the less-expensive foods, but that is not always the case. A store-brand crisped rice cereal only had sugar. Kellogg's contained HFCS. I contacted Kellogg's to ask about that, they said they will not use sugar because it HFCS tastes better and is less expensive – they sure don't pass those "savings" onto consumers, though.

    We just have to be vigilant and watch for HFCS. Paleo-diets look like they may have the best answer for our health – getting away from grains and grain-fed animal proteins (as the grains have the same problem-causing effects on the animals and ingesting the meat from those just serves to compound the problems in our own diets.) This is not an inexpensive proposition, but one we need to consider to lead have a healthy diet.

    • RippedOff?

      Correct, "regular" corn syrup is mostly glucose that why the industry needs to be prevented from labeling HFCS simply as "corn syrup" – that is what they want to do. The 2 sweetners are very different in the way our bodies process them.

      Regular sugar is 50% fructose which is only slightly better than HFCS which is about 60% fructose.

      • Tammy

        I agree HFCS should not be renamed, "corn sugar." It comes as a syrup, but should not in any way be allowed to be confused with standard, old-fashioned corn syrup.

        I am going to strive to simply take corn out of our diet. One step at a time. First the HFCS, then canned, then the grain-fed beef.


    WHAT is the point of investigating any of this if your not willing to punish those who harm your children, terrorist who pray on children,they only understand one thing "death",the courts are gone,the police work for the the politicians all work for the corp.or the banks,its you now or no one,the whole system is gone,do you under stand the whole system is GONE…….they don't give a shit what you want and the police will beat your brains in if you bother these corp.thats how it is NOW, aren't you glad you hired all these police to protect the giant corporations…………..

  • RKae

    How 'bout a little blame going to the drug industry? With 1 in 5 boys on some sort of mind-altering pharmaceutical, that's got to be wrecking some livers.

  • SeaKat

    Is it just the HFCS, or is it the fact that most of the corn it's produced from is genetically modified? And how would we know?

    • Malcontent

      That's a damn good point SeaKat!