The Effect of Overweight and Obesity on Liver Biochemical Markers in Children and Adolescents

Magnus J Johansen, Julie Gade, Stefan Stender, Christine Frithioff-Bøjsøe, Morten A V Lund, Elizaveta Chabanova, Henrik S Thomsen, Oluf Pedersen, Cilius E Fonvig, Torben Hansen, Jens-Christian Holm

36 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Elevated plasma concentrations of liver enzymes are routinely used as markers of liver injury in adults and children. Currently, the age- and sex-specific effects of adiposity on pediatric liver enzyme concentrations are unclear.

METHODS: We included participants from 2 cohorts of Danish children and adolescents: 1858 from a population-based cohort and 2155 with overweight or obesity, aged from 6 to 18 years. Age- and sex-specific percentile curves were calculated for fasting plasma concentrations of alanine transaminase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT), bilirubin, and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) in both cohorts. Hepatic fat content was assessed by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in 458 participants.

RESULTS: Concentrations of ALT, AST, LDH, and ALP decreased with age in both girls and boys, while GGT and bilirubin were comparable across age groups in girls and increased slightly with age in boys. Children and adolescents with overweight or obesity exhibited higher concentrations of ALT in all age groups. Concentrations of ALT, and to a lesser degree GGT, increased with age in boys with overweight or obesity. Optimal ALT cut-points for diagnosing hepatic steatosis (liver fat content > 5%) was 24.5 U/L for girls (sensitivity: 55.6%, specificity: 84.0%), and 34.5 U/L for boys (sensitivity: 83.7%, specificity: 68.2%).

CONCLUSIONS: Pediatric normal values of liver enzymes vary with both age and sex. Overweight and obesity is associated with elevated biochemical markers of liver damage. These findings emphasize the need for prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents. (J Clin Endocrinol Metab XX: 0-0, 2019).

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)430-442
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • cross-sectional study
  • liver enzymes
  • obesity
  • pediatric
  • reference values


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