Women who drink sugar-sweetened beverages every day are at greater risk of developing liver cancer and chronic liver disease, according to international researchers led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts.
A recent study published in JAMA Network Open included nearly 100,000 postmenopausal women from the Women’s Health Initiative study.
Participants reported their usual soft drink, fruit drink consumption – not including fruit juice – and then reported artificially sweetened beverage consumption after three years. They were followed for a median of more than two decades.
Researchers looked at self-reported liver cancer incidence and death due to chronic liver disease, including fibrosis, cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis – which were further verified by medical records or the National Death Index.
Final analyses – including 98,786 postmenopausal women – found 6.8% of women who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened beverages every day had an 85% higher risk of liver cancer and a 68% higher risk of chronic liver disease mortality compared with those who had fewer than three sugar-sweetened beverages per month.
However, the authors of the study noted that the study was observational and causality cannot be inferred. They relied on self-reported responses regarding intake, sugar content and outcomes.
The researchers said more studies are necessary to validate this risk association and determine why sugary drinks appeared to increase the risk of liver cancer and disease, as well as to make clear the potential mechanisms by integrating genetics, preclinical and experimental studies and -omics data.
The hospital noted in a release that approximately 65% of adults in the U.S. consume sugar-sweetened beverages daily.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to report an association between sugar sweetened beverage intake and chronic liver disease mortality,” first author Longgang Zhao, of the Brigham’s Channing Division of Network Medicine, said in a statement. “Our findings, if confirmed, may pave the way to a public health strategy to reduce risk of liver disease based on data from a large and geographically diverse cohort.”