If you didn’t already know enough reasons to stay away from sugary drinks such as soda, a new study has found another one: A sugary drink per day has been associated with an increase in liver problems in older women.
The study, published this summer in JAMA, studied the effects of one or more sugary drinks per day — non-diet sodas and fruit drinks such as Tang, Hi-C, and Kool-Aid — on women ages 50 and up.
Nearly 100,000 women’s data was examined, and the study found that “compared with three or fewer sugar-sweetened beverages per month, consuming one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day was associated with a significantly higher incidence of liver cancer and death from chronic liver diseases.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 11,000 women get liver cancer each year and 9,000 die of it.
Effects of Diet
“This is not necessarily a new concept, but it is nice to have studies evaluate this concept of how much diet and nutrition can have an effect on cancer such as liver cancer,” says Dr. Alexander Jow, a gastroenterologist with Kaiser Permanente in Northern Virginia.
Sugary drinks have already been tied to colon cancers, breast cancers, and prostate cancer, Jow says.
Common risk factors of liver cancer include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, alcohol use, smoking, obesity, age, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, he adds, but this might be the first study that “looked at whether there are specific things in your diet that may be increasing [risk].” It was also the first one “that also tied in mortality from chronic liver disease.”
The study did not find a similar link with artificially sweetened drinks, such as diet sodas, or with real fruit juice.
“There’s plenty of sugar that you’re going to get from your diet from natural sources; this is really added sugars,” Jow says. “Soda is literally just straight-up sugar. If there was anything that I would take home is, you should not be drinking soda.”
He adds that the American Heart Association already recommends women limit their daily sugar intake to about 24 grams, or six teaspoons of sugar, because of the risk of heart disease and obesity.
“And certainly now that we have this association of chronic liver disease mortality as well as liver cancer, we have even more reason to really watch where you’re getting your sugar and how much sugar you’re taking in.”
For more stories like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine’s Health newsletter.