Aug 01, 2023
If you decide to limit your alcohol intake or quit drinking entirely, your liver is sure to send you a thank-you note. But how do other beverages impact liver health and function? A new study provides
If you decide to limit your alcohol intake or quit drinking entirely, your liver is sure to send you a thank-you note. But how do other beverages impact liver health and function? A new study provides a clue: Here's what happened when researchers investigated how sugary drinks affect the all-important detoxification organ.
A recent study published in Jama Network1 found that those who drank one or more sugar-sweetened beverages daily2 had an 85% higher risk of liver cancer and 68% higher risk of mortality due to chronic liver disease compared to those who had three or fewer sugar-sweetened beverages per month.
Supports daily detoxification*
The study was done on 98,786 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 who were enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative from 1993 to 1998. During this time, the women documented how many sugar-sweetened beverages they drank daily. This did not include naturally sweet drinks like fruit juice. Researchers then followed up with participants in March 2020 to assess health changes.
During that follow-up, 207 women had developed liver cancer, and 148 had died from chronic liver disease. When researchers analyzed these results against questionnaires about diet habits, they found that women who consumed one or more servings per day of sugar-sweetened beverages had a significantly higher risk of liver cancer than those who did not.
Researchers also addressed artificially sweetened beverages but found that women who consumed one or more of these per day did not have a significantly higher risk of liver health complications.
This study was observational and only completed on women, so more research is needed to confirm causation and explore possible explanations for this finding. Nevertheless, it was a large study and does align with other research confirming that, more often than not, added sugar isn't beneficial for overall health.
It's easy to jump to conclusions when you hear shocking statistics like this, but take a deep breath: This doesn't mean you're going to develop liver cancer because you enjoy a sweetened beverage every once in a while.
However, this research may provide a nudge to limit added sugar when possible—if not for your liver, then for your overall health3. Sugar can often be added to seemingly healthy beverages, so it's important to check your labels and know what you're drinking. What's more, this study proposes that supporting liver health is about more than just being mindful of your alcohol intake. (Here are a few more expert-backed ways to improve liver function.)
If you do enjoy sweet drinks, you don't need to quit them cold turkey. Rather, take a mindful approach to consumption. Even in the study, moderation was shown to be A-OK, as women who consumed three or fewer sugar-sweetened beverages each month had a significantly lower risk than those who did so daily.
Although this study did not find a strong correlation between artificial sweeteners and liver health, that doesn't mean they're necessarily the best option either. In fact, the common artificial sweetener aspartame has recently been called a "possible carcinogen" by the World Health Organization (WHO)4.
RELATED READ: How Dangerous Is Aspartame, Really? A Nutritional Psychiatrist Weighs In
The solution? Stick with natural sweeteners instead. A few options previously recommended by functional medicine practitioner Will Cole, IFMCP, DMN, D.C.:
If you want to dive deeper into the nuances of sweeteners (and more healthy options), check out the full story here.
A new study found that daily intake of sugar-sweetened beverages increased the risk of liver cancer by 85% and mortality due to chronic liver disease by 68%. If you're trying to support your liver, limit your added sugar intake and opt for natural sweeteners instead when possible. Wondering why sugar is so hard for you to quit? Here's more on sugar cravings and what they mean.
Supports daily detoxification*
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.RELATED READ:(23)