Authored by Flora Zhao via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Do you find yourself drinking a sweetened beverage every day? Be cautious, as this habit could increase the risk of chronic liver disease and even liver cancer.
It is widely known that consuming sweetened drinks can contribute to obesity and insulin resistance. A recent prospective cohort study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has further revealed detrimental health effects linked to sweetened drinks, particularly concerning liver disease. The study showed that individuals who regularly consume sweetened drinks face an astonishing 85 percent higher likelihood of developing liver cancer and a 68 percent higher risk of mortality from chronic liver disease than those who consume fewer sweetened drinks.
Elevated Risks of Liver Cancer and Liver Disease
This study was led by scientists from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and it drew data from a comprehensive prospective clinical database in the United States: the Women’s Health Initiative. The database has been gathering information from a cohort of over 160,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79. The information collection concluded in 2020, spanning a follow-up period of approximately 21 years.
“Epidemiological studies on dietary factors and liver cancer and chronic liver disease mortality are limited,” the researchers emphasized in the report. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to report an association between sugar-sweetened beverage intake and chronic liver disease mortality.”
Participants completed the survey questionnaire detailing their consumption of sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened drinks, excluding fruit juices. These individuals were divided into three groups:
- Women who consumed three servings or less per month.
- Women who drank one to six servings per week.
- Women who drank one or more servings per day (with one serving equivalent to 12 ounces or 355 milliliters, roughly the size of a standard beverage can).
The findings revealed that women who consumed one or more servings of sweetened drinks daily had an 85 percent higher risk of developing liver cancer than those who drank three servings or less per month. Additionally, their mortality rate due to chronic liver disease was 68 percent higher.
In the study, “chronic liver disease” refers to conditions like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, liver fibrosis, alcoholic liver disease, and chronic hepatitis. During the calculation, potential factors that could influence liver disease, including age, ethnicity, education level, smoking and alcohol consumption habits, and body mass index, were taken into account.
Known risk factors for liver cancer include hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) infections, metabolic disorders, excessive alcohol consumption, and foods contaminated with aflatoxins, such as peanuts and corn. “However, approximately 40% of patients with liver cancer do not have these risk factors. … Therefore, it is important to identify dietary risk factors for liver cancer and chronic liver disease mortality,” the researchers stated in the report.
The Impact of Sweetened Drinks on the Liver
Other studies have also corroborated the damaging effects of sweetened drinks on the liver.
A prospective European cohort study revealed that individuals who consume over six servings of soft drinks per week face a notably higher risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (the most common form of liver cancer) by 83 percent compared to those who consume fewer than one serving. The risk increases by 6 percent for each additional serving per week. Another study conducted in the United States indicated that drinking sugar-sweetened soda is associated with an 18 percent increase in the risk of liver cancer.
Research has also demonstrated a link between sweetened drink consumption and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease onset. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Nutrition revealed that individuals who consumed the highest amounts of sugar-sweetened drinks had a 40 percent increased odds of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease compared to those who consumed the least. Another study in 2022 proposed that individuals who frequently consume sugar-sweetened drinks have 2.53 times increased odds of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease compared to those who rarely drink such beverages.
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