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Sugary Drinks Raise Women's Odds for Liver Disease, Cancer

Key Takeaways

  • A study of nearly 100,000 women found that drinking one or more sweetened beverages a day raised the risk of liver cancer by 85%

  • Also, the odds for death from chronic liver disease were raised by 68%

  • Two-thirds of all Americans consume sugary drinks daily

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 9, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- There are plenty of reasons to steer clear of sugary drinks, and new research highlights yet another one: Women who drink sodas and other sweetened drinks have a higher risk of developing liver cancer and chronic liver disease.

Looking at data on nearly 100,000 women, researchers found that nearly 7% of women consumed one or more sugar-sweetened beverages daily. Those women had an 85% higher risk of liver cancer and 68% higher risk of chronic liver disease death compared to those who had fewer than three sugar-sweetened beverages a month.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to report an association between sugar-sweetened beverage intake and chronic liver disease mortality,” said study co-author Longgang Zhao, a postdoctoral researcher in the Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“Our findings, if confirmed, may pave the way to a public health strategy to reduce risk of liver disease," Zhao said in a hospital news release.

Researchers used data on the postmenopausal women from the large Women’s Health Initiative study. Participants reported their usual consumption of soft drinks or fruit drinks (not fruit juice), and then reported artificially sweetened beverage consumption after three years.

The study followed the women for a median of more than 20 years (half more, half less). The authors looked at self-reported liver cancer incidence as well as deaths due to chronic liver disease such as fibrosis, cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis. These reports were verified by medical records or the National Death Index.

The findings add to existing evidence that sugary drinks are harmful to your health. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, frequently drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases and non-alcoholic liver disease. It is also tied to tooth decay and cavities, and gout, a type of arthritis.

The study also points out that 65% of Americans consume sugar-sweetened beverages daily.

More studies will be needed to validate these results because the study relied on self-reports about sugar intake and outcomes. The paper can’t actually prove the connection, nor does it explain why sugary drinks might be linked to an increase the risk of liver cancer and disease.

The study results were published Aug. 8 in Journal of the American Medical Association.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on sugar-sweetened beverages.

SOURCE: Mass General Brigham, news release, Aug. 8, 2023

What This Means For You

The findings add to evidence that sugar-sweetened beverages can be harmful to your health.

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