A study of over 90,000 postmenopausal women has revealed that individuals who consumed a minimum of one sugar-sweetened drink every day experienced a 78% higher liver cancer risk in comparison to individuals consuming less than 3 monthly servings of sugar-sweetened drinks.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
The results indicate that consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks is a potential modifiable liver cancer risk factor. If these study results are confirmed, reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks could function as a public health strategy to reduce the burden of liver cancer. Replacing sugar-sweetened drinks with water, and non-sugar-sweetened tea or coffee could reduce the risk of liver cancer significantly.
Liver cancer incidence has increased dramatically throughout the past 30 years. Although risk factors which include diabetes, alcohol consumption, and chronic hepatitis infections are implicated in most cases, about 40% of them aren’t explained by known risk factors. The researchers wanted to determine if certain dietary factors might be involved.
Regular sugar-sweetened beverage consumption which includes fruit drinks and soda has been associated with various health issues. Although consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has gone down over the past few decades, it’s still common; almost 2/thirds of White individuals in the U.S. reported at least some consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages on a given day.
Data were analyzed from 90,504 postmenopausal women taking part in a long-term study. Baseline questionnaires were completed and participants were followed for 18 years on average. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was evaluated according to authenticated food frequency questionnaires and liver cancer diagnoses were validated making use of the medical records of the participants.
Approximately 7% of the women reported consuming 1 or more 12-ounce sugar-sweetened beverages daily and 205 of them developed liver cancer. Those drinking 1 or more sugar-sweetened beverages every day were 78% more likely to get liver cancer and those drinking a minimum of 1 daily soft drink were 73% more likely to get liver cancer in comparison to individuals who never drank these beverages or drank less than 3 monthly servings.
Even though more research would be required to determine the mechanisms and factors behind the association, higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity, which are subsequent liver cancer risk factors. These drinks can also contribute to insulin resistance and fat buildup in the liver, both of which impact liver health.
Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, a postulated risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity, may be a driving factor for inflammation and insulin resistance which are strongly connected to liver carcinogenesis.
The researchers caution that the study is observational and wasn’t intended to evaluate if sugar-sweetened beverages in fact cause liver cancer or if sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is an indicator of other lifestyle factors which contribute to liver cancer. Also, given that the study focused on postmenopausal women, research including men and younger women is required to examine the relationships more thoroughly.
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