Original Article

Liver volume and hepatic adiposity in childhood: relations to body growth and visceral fat

  • International Journal of Obesity volume 42, pages 6571 (2018)
  • doi:10.1038/ijo.2017.198
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Abstract

Background and objective:

The sequence of prenatal growth restraint and postnatal catch-up growth may lead to hepato-visceral adiposity, insulin resistance and low-grade inflammation before the onset of puberty. In prepubertal children born appropriate for gestational age (AGA) or small for gestational age (SGA), we assessed potential relationships between the aforementioned sequence and liver volume.

Subjects/Methods:

The study population consisted of 86 children (41 AGA and 45 SGA with catch-up growth; age (mean±s.e.m.), 8.5±0.1 years), recruited into two prospective longitudinal studies. Anthropometry, endocrine–metabolic variables and inflammatory and hepatic markers were assessed, along with liver volume, hepatic adiposity and abdominal fat partitioning (by magnetic resonance imaging).

Results:

AGA and SGA children differed in hepato-visceral adiposity, but had similar liver volumes. Boys had larger livers than girls, and higher sex hormone binding globulin and inflammation markers. Liver volume correlated with height Z-score, body mass index Z-score, HOMA-IR (homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance) and with subcutaneous and visceral fat, but not with birth weight Z-score or with hepatic adiposity. Height, visceral fat, gender and HOMA-IR were major determinants of liver volume, together explaining 61% of its variance.

Conclusions:

The trajectory from prenatal restraint, via postnatal catch-up, to hepato-visceral adiposity and insulin resistance does not appear to be detectably influenced by prepubertal alterations of liver volume. Further follow-up will disclose the potential role of liver volume in the pubertal segment of this trajectory, and whether the augmented fat content and visceral adiposity in SGA subjects is followed by the development of metabolic syndrome and hepatic dysfunction in adulthood.

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Acknowledgements

LI, RM and MD are investigators of CIBERDEM (www.ciberdem.org). AL-B is an investigator of the I3 Fund for Scientific research (Ministry of Education and Science, Spain). JB is an investigator of the Miguel Servet Fund from Carlos III National Institute of Health, Spain (MS12/03239).

Author contributions

LI and AL-B had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Endocrinology, Pediatric Research Institute Sant Joan de Déu, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

    • R Malpique
    • , M Diaz
    •  & L Ibáñez
  2. Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Diabetes y Enfermedades Metabólicas Asociadas (CIBERDEM), ISCIII, Madrid, Spain

    • R Malpique
    • , M Diaz
    •  & L Ibáñez
  3. Department of Pediatrics, Hospital Dr Josep Trueta and Girona Institute for Biomedical Research, Girona, Spain

    • J Bassols
    •  & A López-Bermejo
  4. Biochemical and Molecular Biology Department, Biomedicine Institute, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

    • F Villarroya
  5. Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición (CIBEROBN), ISCIII, Madrid, Spain

    • F Villarroya
  6. CETIR Medical Center, Barcelona, Spain

    • J Pavia
    •  & A Congo
  7. Certro de Investigación Biomédica en Red en Bioingeniería, Biomateriales y Nanomedicina (CIBER-BBN), ISCIII, Madrid, Spain

    • J Pavia
  8. Department of Development and Regeneration, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

    • F de Zegher

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Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to L Ibáñez.