Study Finds Daily Sugary Drink Consumption Raises Liver Cancer Risk in Women by 85%

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You may be aware that frequent use of sugary drinks is associated with an increased risk of health hazards, including weight gain, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Here is another reason to cut down on sugary beverages – liver cancer.

New research shows that daily consumption of such drinks could significantly raise the risk of liver cancer and death from chronic liver disease.

Roughly 65% of adults in the U.S. consume sugar-sweetened beverages daily, which comprise regular soda, sweetened fruit drinks, sports/energy drinks and sweetened coffee/tea drinks.

In the latest study, published in JAMA Network, researchers found women who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened beverages daily were at an 85% higher risk of developing liver cancer.

The observational study evaluated the sugary drink consumption of 100,000 women of post-menopausal age across the U.S. They were then followed up for over 20 years to analyze the incidence of cancer and death due to chronic liver diseases such as fibrosis, cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis.

Among the participants, 207 women developed liver cancer and 148 died from chronic liver disease. Some 6.8% of participants drank sugar-sweetened beverages daily, while 13% drank artificially sweetened beverages. Those who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened beverages daily were at an 85% higher risk of liver cancer. The risk of chronic liver disease mortality was 68% higher in them.

“In postmenopausal women, compared with consuming three or fewer servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per month, those who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day had a higher incidence of liver cancer and death from chronic liver disease,” the researchers wrote.

The participants who drank artificially sweetened beverages did not show a significant risk of liver problems.

The study has not evaluated the exact mechanism by which sugary drinks pose adverse liver effects. Researchers believe it might be because high consumption of sweetened beverages elevates blood glucose and insulin resistance – the factors closely linked to the heightened risk of liver cancer and liver diseases.

“Even though sugar-sweetened beverage intake has declined steadily in the U.S. from 2003 through 2018, the overall intake remains high, with 65.3% of white adults who reported consuming at least some sugar-sweetened beverages on a given day in 2017-2018,” Xuehong Zhang and co-author Longgang Zhao, told MedPage Today.

“Our findings suggest sugar-sweetened beverages as a potential modifiable risk factor for liver cancer and chronic liver disease mortality. If our findings are confirmed, reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption might serve as a public health strategy to reduce liver disease burden,” they added.

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