Sweet Drinks And Your Liver: What We Know Now

It probably isn’t news to you that drinking lots of alcohol can harm your liver. But what about sugar-sweetened beverages? Think soda, fruit juice, and sports and energy drinks. A recent study suggests they also may be bad for your liver.

A link to liver disease
Your liver is a busy organ. It helps power you up by breaking down what you eat and drink. It also takes out the trash: It cleanses your body of toxins, such as alcohol. Sometimes your liver can’t keep up, though. It may then build up fat. This extra fat can lead to liver disease.
Some types of liver disease are caused by drinking too much alcohol. But not all. One such kind is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). People often don’t know they have NAFLD. It usually has no symptoms. But some people may have fatigue, nausea, stomach pain, or swelling. People with diabetes or high cholesterol tend to develop NAFLD. So do those who are overweight or obese.
People who drink too many sugar-sweetened beverages may also be at risk for NAFLD. So suggests a recent study in the Journal of Hepatology. Researchers tracked the liver health of more than 5,900 adults over 7 years. These people were asked about their intake of sugary drinks. They also had their liver fat measured. In the end, those who drank such beverages every day were half again as likely to develop NAFLD than those who never drank them.
Sugar and your overall health
Saving your liver isn’t the only reason you should cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages. Ongoing research has linked the drinks to many chronic diseases. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. One recent study estimated that about 184,000 people die every year from these health risks as a result of drinking too many sugary drinks.
What is the connection between sugar-sweetened drinks and poor health? Being overweight or obese. Drinking sugary beverages on a regular basis may pack on the pounds. A 12-ounce can of soda contains nearly 8 teaspoons of sugar. This added sugar provides you with next to no nutrition. But it’s loaded with calories—on average 130 in a can.
Sugar-sweetened beverages are the leading source of sugar in the American diet. In fact, about half of the population drinks them regularly. Not surprising, children and young adults—mainly males—drink the most. Fortunately, soda seems to be falling out of favor with consumers. But sports and energy drinks may be replacing it as the latest craze.

Cutting back on sugar-sweetened beverages is one way you can lower your risk for many chronic diseases, including NAFLD. Learn more about this type of liver disease at our Health (e) Library online.

How GMC Can Help

When you're ready to improve your health, the best place to start is with a physical exam by a medical professional. And most insurance plans cover an annual physical as part of covered wellness services. Check with your plan to make sure. Then find the perfect physician for you at gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/physician.


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