Treatment for NAFLD & NASH in Children

How do doctors treat NAFLD in children?

Doctors may recommend that children with overweight or obesity gradually lose weight to treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)—either nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Weight loss is the most effective way to reduce fat, inflammation, and fibrosis—or scarring—in the liver. Doctors may suggest that young children try to maintain their weight as their height increases. Most important is to avoid further excess weight gain.

To manage weight and help improve NAFLD, you can help your child

  • improve healthy eating habits
  • avoid drinking beverages that have added sugar
  • avoid “fast foods” high in sugar, starch, and fat
  • be more physically active

You can also help your child by being a role model in both healthy eating and physical activity.

No medicines have been approved to treat NAFLD—either NAFL or NASH—in children. Researchers are studying medicines that may improve these conditions.

For safety reasons, talk with your child’s doctor before your child uses dietary supplements—such as mixtures of vitamins, minerals, nutritional supplements, and herbal medicines—or any other complementary or alternative medicines or practices. Some herbal remedies can actually damage a child’s liver.

A young girl with overweight or obesity who is sliding down a slide.
Doctors recommend that children who are overweight or have obesity gradually lose weight to treat NAFLD.

How do doctors treat the complications of NASH?

If NASH leads to cirrhosis, doctors can treat the health problems caused by cirrhosis with medicines, minor medical procedures, and surgery. If cirrhosis leads to liver failure, a child may need a liver transplant.

How can parents and caretakers help prevent NAFLD in children?

Making sure that a child eats a healthy diet, limits portion sizes, and maintains a healthy weight can help prevent NAFLD.

Last Reviewed December 2021
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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.