A recent study published in the Journal of Hepatology and conducted at Tufts University looked at the impact of sugary drinks on liver health. The study assessed the dietary questionnaires of 2,634 individuals, who were mostly comprised of middle aged men and women. Researchers looked at the frequency of consumption of sugary beverages and subsequent risk of fatty liver disease.
The sugary beverages consisted of soft drinks, fruit drinks and fruit punches. The participants received a CT scan of their liver to see how much fat is inside it.
People who reported drinking at least one sugary beverage each day were found to be 60 percent more likely to have a fatty liver, compared to people who said they never consumed these drinks. In fact, the more sugary beverages a person drank, the higher their risk of fatty liver. The researchers only looked at the types of drinks the participants consumed; there are plenty of foods that are high in sugar as well and these also raise the risk of developing a fatty liver.
What does this have to do with killing liver cells? When excess fat accumulates inside the liver, it causes harm to liver cells. If this damage is allowed to continue year after year, it significantly raises the risk of cirrhosis of the liver. People with a fatty liver typically have elevated liver enzymes on a blood test called a liver function test. This is the most common way fatty liver is first detected.
Liver enzymes belong inside your liver cells where they carry out a number of metabolic functions. If your liver cells become damaged, these enzymes leak into your bloodstream and produce an elevated reading on a blood test.
Have you seen That Sugar Film yet? I highly recommend it. It’s extremely informative, shocking and highly entertaining. The actor, Damon Gameau, decided to consume the equivalent of 40 teaspoons of sugar each day for two months while consuming foods that are commonly perceived to be healthy. He did not drink soft drinks and he didn’t have any confectionery, ice-cream or other junk foods. He only ate foods that many people consider to be healthy but are actually not, because they’re high in sugar. Examples include some breakfast cereals, low fat yoghurt, fruit juice and muesli bars.
During the course of the experiment, Damon was medically supervised by a team which included Dr Ken Sikaris from Melbourne Pathology, who conducted his blood tests. Dr Sikaris was shocked that after just 18 days Damon had developed a fatty liver. One of his liver enzymes was raised and Dr Sikaris explained this means his liver cells are dying. Fortunately at the end of the experiment Damon returned to his regular healthy, sugar free diet and his liver health returned to normal.