The Study find that  “Fatty liver disease is ripping through the Latino community like a silent tsunami and especially affecting children;” said Dr. Rohit Kohli, chief of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at CHLA. Recent research shows about 1 in 4 people in the U.S. have fatty liver disease. But among Latinos; especially of Mexican and Central American descent, the rate is significantly higher. One large study in Dallas found that 45% of Latinos had fatty livers.

Especially affecting children

The illness, diagnose when more than 5% of the liver’s weight is fat; does not cause serious problems in most people. But it can progress to a more severe condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis; or NASH, which is link to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. This progressive form of fatty liver disease is the fastest-growing cause of liver transplants in young adults.

The USC-CHLA study is led by Michael Goran, director of the Diabetes and Obesity Program at CHLA; who last year make an alarming discovery: Sugar from sweetened beverages  passe in breast milk from mothers to their babies; potentially predisposing infants to obesity and fatty livers. Healthy Eating Through Reduction of Excess Sugar, his program is designed to help children like Adrian; who used to drink four or more sugary drinks a day, shed unhealthy habits that can lead to fatty liver and other diseases.

Medical community as lawmakers

Fatty liver disease is gaining more attention in the medical community as lawmakers ratchet up pressure to discourage the consumption of sugar-laden drinks. Legislators in Sacramento are mulling proposals to impose a statewide soda tax; put warning labels on sugary drinks and bar beverage companies from offering discount coupons on sweetened drinks.

“They also need public health strategies that limit marketing of sugary beverages, snacks and cereals to infants and children.” William Dermody; a spokesman for the American Beverage Association said: “We understand that we have a role to play in helping Americans manage consumption of added sugars; which is why we are creating more drinks with less or no sugar.”

Fatty liver disease a manifestation

In 2016, 45 deaths in Los Angeles County were attributed to fatty liver disease. But that’s a “gross underestimate;” because by the time people with the illness die, they often have cirrhosis; and that’s what appears on the death certificate, said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer at the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

Still, Simon says, it is striking that 53% of the 2016 deaths attributed to fatty liver disease are among Latinos nearly double their proportion of total deaths in the county. Medical researchers consider fatty liver disease a manifestation of something called metabolic syndrome a cluster of conditions that include excess belly fat and elevate blood pressure; blood sugar and cholesterol that can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.