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Daily sugary drink habit linked to liver disease

By Nathan Gray+

08-Jun-2015
Last updated on 12-Jun-2015 at 23:59 GMT2015-06-12T23:59:29Z

Daily sugary drink habit linked to liver disease

Consumption of a sugar-sweetened drink on a daily basis may be associated with an increased risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), say researchers.

Data from more than 2,500 men and women enrolled as part of the NHLBI Framingham Heart Study's Offspring and Third Generation cohort has suggested that people who reported drinking more than one sugar-sweetened beverage per day saw a higher prevalence of NAFLD compared to people who said they drank no sugar-sweetened beverages.

Writing in the Journal of Hepatology, the team behind the study revealed that CT scan results measuring the amount of fat in the liver were significantly associated with consumption of included caffeinated- and caffeine-free colas and other carbonated beverages with sugar including fruit punches, lemonade or other non-carbonated fruit drinks.

"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 Dr Jiantao Ma, who led the research.

The relationships between sugar-sweetened beverages and NAFLD persisted after the authors accounted for age, sex, body mass index (BMI), and dietary and lifestyle factors such as calorie intake, alcohol, and smoking, said Ma and her collegaues.

In contrast, after accounting for these factors the authors found no association between diet colas and NAFLD.

Study details

The research team, led by scientists from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HRNCA) at Tufts University, analysed data from 2,634 self-reported dietary questionnaires from mostly Caucasian middle-aged men and women enrolled in the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Framingham Heart Study's Offspring and Third Generation cohorts.

Participants underwent a computed tomography (CT) scan to measure the amount of fat in the liver and the authors of the current study used a previously defined cut-point to identify NAFLD.

They saw a higher prevalence of NAFLD among people who reported drinking more than one sugar-sweetened beverage per day .

"Few observational studies, to date, have examined the relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and NAFLD," commented Ma. "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,” added senior author Dr Nicola McKeown. “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." 

Source: Journal of Hepatology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2015.03.032
"Sugar-sweetened beverage, diet soda, and fatty liver disease in the Framingham Heart Study cohorts"
Authors: Jiantao Ma, et al

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