Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a multifactorial condition, ranging from simple steatosis to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) with or without fibrosis. NAFLD affects both adults and children who present with particular risk factors, including obesity, sedentary lifestyle and/or a predisposing genetic background. The escalation of the prevalence of NAFLD in children worldwide is a worrying phenomenon because this disease is closely associated with the development of both cirrhosis and cardiometabolic syndrome in adulthood. The etiopathogenesis of primary NAFLD in children is unknown; however, considerable knowledge about the mechanisms of liver damage that occur during disease progression has been gathered over the past 30 years. Understanding the pathogenetic mechanisms, together with the histological pattern, provide the basis to characterize potential early predictors of the disease, suitable noninvasive diagnostic tools and design novel specific treatments and possible management strategies. Despite a few clinical trials on the use of antioxidants combined with lifestyle intervention for NAFLD that showed encouraging results, to date, no treatment guidelines exist for children with NAFLD. In this Review, we provide an overview of current concepts in epidemiology, histological features, etiopathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of NAFLD in children and adolescents.
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