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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Pediatrics and Child Health

Gender Differences in Healthy Ranges for Serum Alanine Aminotransferase Levels in Adolescence
Published: Monday, June 27, 2011
Author: Hossein Poustchi et al.

by Hossein Poustchi, Jacob George, Saeed Esmaili, Farzaneh Esna-Ashari, Gelayol Ardalan, Sadaf Ghajarieh Sepanlou, Seyed Moayed Alavian

Background & Aims

There is a worldwide epidemic of obesity among adolescents who subsequently are at increased risk for the development of non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) is the most frequently used test for screening these individuals, but no age and gender-specific upper limits of normal (ULN) based on healthy population data in children are available. The objective of the present study was to define ULN for ALT in healthy children in order to use this as a tool for case finding.

Methods

A total of 975 school children (aged 7–18 years) were included in the study cohort. Highly significant correlations (all p<0.001) were noted between ALT values and measures of BMI, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, insulin levels, HOMA-IR, total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations. In order to define the population with no risk factors, we excluded subjects having abnormal values for factors that correlated with ALT. This population comprised 186 boys and 185 girls.

Results

In boys, median serum ALT levels were 16 IU/L and 9, 11, 18, and 30 IU/L for the 5th, 25th, 75th, and 95th percentiles. In girls, median serum ALT was 13, and 7, 9, 16, and 21 IU/L for the 5th, 25th, 75th, and 95th percentiles, respectively. The ULNs for ALT were 30 IU/L and 21 IU/L for boys and girls respectively. We found a linear relationship between age and ALT in females (p<0.001) but not in males. By multiple logistic regression, independent predictors of an elevated ALT included the BMI, waist hip ratio and levels of serum total cholesterol. In females, age was an additional inverse predictor.

Conclusions

In children and adolescents, these normal limits for ALT should be applied. Those with persistent elevations should be investigated further.

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