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5th-grader’s cold drink habit results in fatty liver

5th-grader’s cold drink habit results in fatty liver

A fifth-grade student in Taiwan standing about 150 cm tall and weighing more than 70 kg has been found to be suffering from fatty liver, with the finger being pointed at his steady diet of after-school iced drinks. A physician warns that frequent ingestion of such sweet drinks, most of which are flavored with fructose syrup, can lead to conversion of the fructose into triglycerides that are accumulated in the liver and can result in fatty liver and cirrhosis.

Chiang Chih-kang, a nephrologist at National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) and Secretary-General of the Toxicology Association of Taiwan, points out that the high cost of sugar has led many manufacturers and cold drink stand operators to stock up on large barrels of high-fructose corn syrup. That contributes to their bottom lines, but it also contributes to the saggy bottoms of young consumers hooked on a daily ration of tea and juice from the local drink stand.

Chiang explains that once sugar or starch is taken into the body, it is converted into glucose and then glycogen, which is stored in the liver for re-conversion to glucose by the liver as needed. But the metabolic process may vary, and when the body is subjected to excessive intake of fructose syrup, it may be converted by the liver into fatty acids and triglycerides and stored as adipose tissue.

Most commercial sugary drinks contain large amounts of fructose syrup, and the excess amounts ingested in regular consumption of sugary drinks not only harms the functions of the liver and directly increases the incidence of metabolic disorders, it can also afflict younger patients with fatty liver. These days, even primary school students are being found with livers wrapped in layers of fatty cells and tissues.

Chan Hsiao-ching, Deputy Executive Director of the Good Liver Foundation and a family medicine physician at NTUH, points out that unfortunately many people have developed the habit of consuming soft drinks and sugary drinks rather than drinking plain water. They run the risk of contracting fatty liver and cirrhosis at a very early age, she says.

Chan recently treated a 5th-grade student who had stopped growing at 150cm tall and ballooned to more than 70 kg in weight. His parents took him to a doctor who discovered through an ultrasound test that he had developed a severe case of fatty liver, and showed high levels of both blood cholesterol and triglycerides.

Chan cautions that those who are obese are not the only ones in danger of developing a fatty liver. Slender persons can also suffer from fatty liver if they indulge in bad eating habits including high-fat, high-salt foods along with sugary drinks that lead to excessive intake of fructose syrup.

Chan advises people to get more exercise and avoid sugary juice or tea and the like. She counsels everyone, in particular the young, to avoid sugary drinks that taste good but are not at all good for the health.

Updated : 2021-09-28 06:34 GMT+08:00