Public Release: 

Recommended activity levels not achieved by obese children and those with liver disease

University of Surrey

  • Research highlights non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is most common form of chronic liver disease in children and adolescents in western countries
  • Exercise and healthy diet curb liver disease
  • Children with liver disease exhibited more restrained eating behaviours and are more likely to exercise than obese children without liver disease

In a new study published today in the journal Nutrients, research from the University of Surrey and the Children's Liver Disease Foundation has found that both obese children and those with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) are not meeting the UK recommendations for a variety of vitamins and minerals.

These children are also significantly far off meeting the recommended physical activity levels for children, which currently is 60 minutes five times a week. The findings further showed that excess weight is unlikely to be the only driving factor in NAFLD development with genetic susceptibility and ethnicity also likely to be implicated.

The team compared the habitual diet and behaviour patterns of 24 children in the UK with NAFLD with obese children who do not have liver disease. Using a short questionnaire and pedometers the results showed that:

  • Children with liver disease were significantly more likely to be restrained eaters, suggesting that their diagnosis may have impacted on their eating behaviours
  • Children with liver disease took more steps per day
  • Sedentary behaviours were particularly prevalent at the weekend across both groups highlighting the important contribution of school-related active travel and in-school activity to this age group

"Rather than make new recommendations for obese children with NAFLD, our findings indicate that concerted efforts should be made to help children improve their current diet and activity patterns to achieve existing population guidelines," said lead author Dr Bernadette Moore from the University of Surrey.

"It also appears that the diagnosis of liver disease changes children's behaviours to a degree. Our study showed that children with NAFLD exhibited more restrained eating behaviours and were more likely to engage in exercise than obese children without liver disease."

Alison Taylor, Chief Executive of the Children's Liver Disease Foundation, added: "We have been delighted to fund this study which is the first to compare nutrient intake, eating behaviours and physical activity of children with NAFLD to obese children who do not have liver disease. The results make interesting reading and take us a step forward in our understanding of this condition."

NAFLD is a major public health challenge. It is currently the most common form of chronic livers disease in in children and adolescents in western countries, with prevalence rising alongside rates of childhood obesity. Caused by a build-up of fat in the liver cells, the condition is strongly linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.


Media enquiries: Peter La, Media Relations Office at the University of Surrey, Tel: 01483 689191 or E-mail:

Notes to Editors:

This study was done in collaboration with clinicians at King's College Hospital where the NAFLD and obese patients were recruited from.

About the Children's Liver Disease Foundation

Children's Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF) is a UK charity which takes action against the effects of childhood liver disease, providing information, emotional support, research funds and a voice for all affected.


  1. More children in the UK are currently diagnosed with a liver disease than childhood leukaemia

  2. At least two children are diagnosed with a liver disease every day in the UK

  3. Most childhood liver diseases are life threatening; all mean a lifetime of care

  4. There are over 100 different liver diseases that can affect babies, children or young people

  5. For most childhood liver diseases the cause is unknown and there are no cures

  6. CLDF is the leading organisation in the UK dedicated to stamping out childhood liver disease

About the University of Surrey

The University of Surrey is one of the UK's leading professional, scientific and technological universities with a world class research profile and a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Ground-breaking research at the University is bringing direct benefit to all spheres of life - helping industry to maintain its competitive edge and creating improvements in the areas of health, medicine, space science, the environment, communications, defence and social policy. Programmes in science and technology have gained widespread recognition and it also boasts flourishing programmes in dance and music, social sciences, management and languages and law. In addition to the campus on 150 hectares just outside Guildford, Surrey, the University also owns and runs the Surrey Research Park, which provides facilities for 110 companies employing 2,750 staff. The University of Surrey was recently named University of the Year by the Times and Sunday Times, both overall and for 'Student Experience', and has achieved a top-ten ranking in all three major national university league tables.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.