Sugary sodas are not on anyone’s list of healthy choices anymore, but we drink an average of 43 gallons of soda apiece each year here in the United States, so knowledge about the health drawbacks of sugary drinks is not changing our behavior. Here’s one more piece of information to put on the scale when deciding whether to consume a Coke or Pepsi: liver damage.
A long-term study of about 100,000 older women found a strong correlation between drinking sweet drinks regularly and increased rates of liver cancer and chronic liver disease death.
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School examined the records of nearly 100,000 women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative beginning in 1993. The group was followed until 2020. At that point, researchers saw that those who drank a sugar-sweetened beverage like soda every day were 85% more likely to have experienced liver cancer. They were 68% more likely to have died from liver disease. Those who drank artificially sweetened drinks were slightly more likely to have these disorders.
The study looked at sweetened drinks, not including fruit juice.
The women in the higher-risk group showed other differences from the group that didn’t drink as much soda. They were a few years younger, less physically active, and had higher average body mass index. However, the researchers found that adjusting the data for body mass index did not change their results; even with mathematical corrections for that factor, the women who drank more soda were also more likely to see liver damage. The statistical models made it clear that it was not as simple as obesity correlating with soda drinking.
Liver damage can lead to pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and malnutrition, among other symptoms and complications. It can increase the risk of liver cancer. Long-term liver damage can also result in Cirrhosis of the liver.
Further research is needed to establish causality and to figure out the reason for the link. However, there is strong enough evidence to show that cutting back on sodas is wise.
Consider replacing sodas with water, sparkling water, tea, or coffee some of the time.
Image courtesy of Canva.