Sugar Sweetened Beverage, if Taken Daily, May Be Linked to Liver Cancer in Women: Study

Women who have sugar-sweetened drinks daily appear to have a higher risk of developing liver cancer and chronic liver disease, according to a recent study.

The study, led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts, analyzed data from nearly 100,000 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50–79 years old, who were enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study from 1993 to 1998 at 40 clinical centers across the United States.

In the study, the women had self-reported their usual soft drinks, fruit drinks (not including fruit juice), and then how much artificially sweetened drinks they consumed after three years.

Researchers followed up the cases over a median of 20.9 years—up to March 1, 2020. They observed self-reported liver cancer incidence and death due to chronic liver disease, and then further verified such data via medical records or the National Death Index.

Results showed that the 6.8 percent of the 98,786 postmenopausal women who drank one or more such drinks each day had 85 percent more risk of liver cancer, and 68 percent more risk of death from chronic liver disease, compared to those who had fewer than three such drinks a month.

“In postmenopausal women, compared with consuming 3 or fewer servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per month, those who consumed 1 or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day had a higher incidence of liver cancer and death from chronic liver disease,” the authors concluded. “Future studies should confirm these findings and identify the biological pathways of these associations.”

A First

In introducing the study, researchers noted that past data showed about 40 percent of patients with liver cancer do not have one of the common liver cancer risk factors like chronic hepatitis B or C infection, type 2 diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption, or obesity.

“Epidemiological studies on dietary factors and liver cancer and chronic liver disease mortality are limited. Therefore, it is important to identify dietary risk factors for liver cancer and chronic liver disease mortality,” they wrote in their paper.

Researchers wanted to see whether sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened drinks could be a risk factor for liver cancer or chronic liver disease and noted that between 2017 and 2018 more than 65 percent of U.S. adults consumed sugar-sweetened beverages daily.

The authors also noted that two previous studies had only established a “potential association” between sugar-sweetened beverage intake and a person’s risk for liver cancer, and “neither study reported rates of liver cancer among women.”

“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.”

More Studies Required

The study centered on postmenopausal women, meaning its findings don’t necessarily apply to other groups regarding sugar-sweetened drinks and liver disease.

The study was observational, the authors noted. As such, it cannot prove that having sugary drinks causes liver cancer or chronic liver disease, or why there is a link.

The authors of the study also noted that it relied on self-reported data on intake, sugar content, and outcomes. This suggests that there could be cases that were not reported, or that the reports may not be entirely accurate since there is no way of verifying the actual intake of sugary drinks.

“More studies are needed to validate this risk association and determine why the sugary drinks appeared to increase risk of liver cancer and disease,” reads a release from Brigham and Women’s Hospital. It added that further studies are needed to better understand the mechanisms, taking into account genetic information, preclinical and experimental studies, and a deep dive into biological data.

These findings amplify existing concerns about the health risks of sugary drinks. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, habitual intake of such beverages can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart issues, kidney ailments, non-alcoholic liver disease, tooth issues, and gout.

The study is titled “Sugar-Sweetened and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Liver Cancer and Chronic Liver Disease Mortality” and was published on Aug. 8, 2023.

Reposted from:

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