Objectives: Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is considered the hepatic manifestation of metabolic syndrome (MetS) among adults. Emerging data suggest that MetS may be associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in children as well. We sought to determine whether MetS or its component features are associated with specific histological features or severity of NAFLD. Methods: Children and adolescents aged 6-17 years enrolled in the Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Clinical Research Network (NASH CRN) with clinical data obtained within 6 months of liver biopsy were included. MetS was defined as the presence of three or more of the following features as determined by application of age-adjusted normative values: central obesity, dyslipidemia, impaired fasting glucose, and elevated blood pressure. Liver biopsies were evaluated by the Pathology Committee of the NASH CRN. Results: Two hundred fifty four children were included in the analysis, of whom 65 (26%) met specified criteria for MetS. Among children with MetS, there is a higher proportion of females who were on average older in age and pubertal. The risk of MetS was greatest among those with severe steatosis (odds ratio (OR)2.58 for grade 3 vs. grade 1 steatosis, P>0.001). The presence of hepatocellular ballooning was also significantly associated with MetS (OR2.10, P>0.03). Those with advanced fibrosis (stage 3/4) had an OR for MetS of 3.21 (P>0.04) vs. those without fibrosis (stage 0). Borderline zone 1 or definite NASH patterns compared with not NASH were strongly associated with MetS (OR4.44, P>0.005 and OR4.07, P>0.002, respectively). The mean NAFLD Activity Score (NAS) was greater among children with MetS vs. those without (4.8 1.4 vs. 4.3 1.4, P>0.01). Central obesity was significantly associated with steatosis, fibrosis, hepatocellular ballooning, and NAFLD pattern. Insulin resistance was significantly associated with steatosis, fibrosis, hepatocellular ballooning, NAS, and NAFLD pattern. Conclusions: MetS is common among children with NAFLD and is associated with severity of steatosis, hepatocellular ballooning, NAS, NAFLD pattern, and the presence of advanced fibrosis. Individual MetS features, particularly central obesity and insulin resistance, were also associated with severity of NAFLD. MetS features should be considered in children with NAFLD as individually and collectively they help identify children with more advanced disease.
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