Daily Sugary Drink May Increase Liver Disease Risk

Colorful drinks in bottles

Today, about one in four people living in the United States has non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that can eventually cause cirrhosis and even liver cancer. Now, a new study suggests that a daily sugary drink increases the risk for NAFLD, especially -- but not only -- among ovwerweight individuals. The study was published this week in The Journal of Hepatology.

Obesity and overweight are key risk risk factors for NAFLD, when there is extra fat in liver cells not caused by alcohol. AICR's latest report on liver cancer, release in March, found that obesity increases the risk of this cancer. And research currently links sugary beverages to weight gain and obesity.

The study included 2,634 mostly middle-aged men and women who had reported their beverage and other dietary habits.The participants underwent a computed tomography (CT) scan to measure the amount of fat in the liver. Among the participants who drank sugary beverages, those who reported drinking one or more sugary beverage per day had a 60 percent higher risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease compared to those who drank it at least once a month, more than once a week. This link was seen after accounting for age, sex, body mass index, calories and other risk factors. The more people drank, the higher the risk. 

Among overweight and obese individuals, but not among normal weight participants, sugary beverage drinkers also had a significantly higher liver fat content.

The sugar-sweetened beverages included colas, other sugary carbonated beverages, fruit punches, lemonade or other non-carbonated fruit drinks. About two thirds of the participants drank at least some fruit, cola or other sugary drink, with over one in ten people drinking it daily. When compared to those who did not drink sugary beverages, those who did were at higher risk of NAFLD.

It's possible added sugar may play an independent role in the development of NAFLD, the authors write, but more research is needed. For the latest findings on diet, nutrition, physical activity and liver cancer prevention, read the latest Continuous Update Project report

The authors were funded from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute’s Framingham Heart Study (Contract N01-HC-25195), the Boston University School of Medicine and support from U.S. Department of Agriculture

SourceMa, J; Fox, CS; Jacques, PF; Speliotes, EK; Hoffmann, U; Smith, CE; Saltzman, E; and McKeown, NM. “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage, Diet Soda, and Fatty Liver Disease in the Framingham Study Cohorts.” Journal of Hepatology. June 5, 2015. 

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    Published on June 10, 2015

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