The Journal of Hepatology published a study by the Jean Mayer USDA human Nutrition Research Center on Aging specifying that sugar sweetened beverages increase the risk of non alcoholic fatty acid liver disease. NAFLD is defined as an accumulation of fat in liver cells that is unrelated to alcohol consumption. The research participants consisted of 2,634 individuals who self-reported their sugar-sweetened beverage habits.
The questionnaires analyzed the type of beverages consumed including caffeinated- and caffeine-free colas, other carbonated beverages with sugar, fruit punches, lemonade or other non-carbonated fruit drinks. The amount of fat in the liver was measured by computed tomography (CT) scan to measure the amount of fat in the liver. The research findings revealed a higher prevalence of NAFLD among people who reported drinking more than one sugar-sweetened beverage per day compared to people who said they drank no sugar-sweetened beverages.
“Our study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that sugar-sweetened beverages may be linked to NAFLD and other chronic diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said first author Jiantao Ma, Ph.D., a former doctoral student in the Nutrition Epidemiology Program at the USDA HNRCA and a graduate of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
“Few observational studies, to date, have examined the relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and NAFLD,” Ma said. “Long-term prospective studies are needed to help ascertain the potential role of sugar-sweetened beverages in the development of NAFLD.”
“The cross-sectional nature of this study prevents us from establishing causality. Future prospective studies are needed to account for the changes in beverage consumption over time as soda consumers may switch to diet soda and these changes may be related to weight status,” added corresponding and senior author Nicola McKeown, Ph.D., a scientist in the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the USDA HNRCA and an associate professor at the Friedman School. “Although there is much more research to be done, sugar-sweetened beverages are a source of empty calories, and people need to be mindful of how much they are drinking, perhaps by reserving this habit for special occasions.”
Ma, 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 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhep.2015.03.032