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Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease & NASH in Children

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Definition & Facts

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which fat builds up in the liver. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the form of NAFLD in which a child has inflammation of the liver and liver damage, in addition to fat in the liver.

A young girl with overweight or obesity who is sliding down a slide.

Symptoms & Causes

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) typically cause few or no symptoms. Children with certain health problems—such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes—are more likely to develop NAFLD and NASH.


Doctors use medical and family history, a physical exam, and tests to diagnose nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in children and to check for other liver problems. Doctors may use blood tests, imaging tests, and liver biopsy to diagnose NAFLD and tell the difference between nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).


Doctors recommend that children with overweight or obesity gradually lose weight to treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)—either nonalcoholic fatty liver or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Weight loss can reduce fat, inflammation, and fibrosis in the liver. No medicines have been approved to treat NAFLD in children.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

Eating a healthy diet, limiting portion sizes, and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in children. If a child has NAFLD, the parent or caretaker should talk with a doctor about the child’s diet.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) conducts and supports clinical trials in many diseases and conditions, including liver diseases. The trials look to find new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease and improve quality of life.

Related Diagnostic Tests

View More Liver Disease Information

Related Research

Last Reviewed December 2021

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, M.D., University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine