Posted on November 17, 2010

Latinos Are Genetically Predisposed to Fatty Liver Disease

KNBC-TV (Los Angeles), Nov. 16, 2010

We know sugar is bad for you. But now a new study shows that it is even worse for many Latinos. A new study out of USC find that Latinos are genetically predisposed to have increased liver fat when they eat sugar, Dr. Bruce Hensel reported.

Rosa Angel got a good look at her liver recently and it wasn’t a pretty picture. “My fat, is very fat on my liver. Its 26 % fat, which is very high,” she said. Rosa has a genetic variation that makes it harder for her liver to break down fat especially when she eats a lot of sugar. Research shows that 49% of Latinos have this gene variation. Its all part of a study from the USC Keck School of Medicine.

Jaimie Davis, Ph.D., is one of the researchers. “It could lead to a direct accumulation of fat in the liver. They may not be able to break it down as efficiently. Diets high in sugar could be leading directly to this fatty liver disease,” Davis said. This accumulation can lead to fatty liver disease or even cirrosis of the liver.And it is especially worrying in children. When researchers tested more than 300 Latino youth 8 to 18 in the East and Central Los Angeles area they found that a third of the youth had fatty livers.

“We’re seeing high amounts of fat in these children, much like if they were alcoholics. And when doctors first saw this fat in the liver, they questioned parents if these kids were drinking alcohol. Which they weren’t,” Davis said.

The main culprit is sugary beverages. More than 40% of the sugar in the Latino children’s diets come from sugary drinks. And not only that, the sugar that is in beverages such as soda and some juices are from high fructose corn syrup, which goes straight to the liver for breakdown. So not only does the highest amount of sugar comes from sugar sweetened beverages, but the type of sugar may also be detrimental.