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Prevalence of Elevated Alanine Aminotransferase in Adolescents in the United States 2011-2018

The objective of this study is to characterize suspected nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) using elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) in a diverse and nationally representative cohort of adolescents and to characterize higher ALT elevation in adolescents with obesity. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2018 were analyzed for adolescents 12-19 years. Participants with causes for elevated ALT other than NAFLD were excluded. Race and ethnicity, sex, body mass index (BMI), and ALT were examined. Elevated ALT was defined as >22 U/L (females) and >26 U/L (males) using the biologic upper normal limit (ULN). Elevated ALT thresholds up to 2X-ULN were examined among adolescents with obesity. Multivariable logistic regression was used to determine the association of race/ethnicity and elevated ALT, adjusting for age, sex, and BMI. Prevalence of elevated ALT in adolescents was 16.5% overall and 39.5% among those with obesity. For White, Hispanic, and Asian adolescents, prevalence was 15.8%, 21.8%, and 16.5% overall, 12.8%, 17.7%, and 27.0% in those with overweight, and 43.0%, 43.5%, and 43.1% in those with obesity, respectively. Prevalence was much lower in Black adolescents (10.7% overall, 8.4% for overweight, 20.7% for obesity). Prevalence of ALT at 2X-ULN was 6.6% in adolescents with obesity. Hispanic ethnicity, age, male sex, and higher BMI were independent predictors of elevated ALT. Prevalence of elevated ALT in U.S. adolescents is high, affecting 1 in 6 adolescents during 2011-2018. The risk is highest in Hispanic adolescents. Asian adolescents with elevated BMI may comprise an emerging risk group for elevated ALT.

Authors: Mischel, Anna K;Liao, Zhengxu;Cao, Fangyi;Dunn, Winston;Lo, Joan C;Newton, Kimberly P;Goyal, Nidhi P;Yu, Elizabeth L;Schwimmer, Jeffrey B

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2023 Jul 01;77(1):103-109. Epub 2023-04-21.

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