Drinking sugary drinks increases the risk of liver cancer
Drinking sugary drinks increases the risk of liver cancer

Drinking sugary drinks increases the risk of liver cancer

Researchers analyzed data from 90,504 postmenopausal women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative.

iStock (Representative image)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

A recent study of more than 90,000 postmenopausal women found that those who drank at least one sugar-sweetened drink a day had a 78% higher risk of developing liver cancer compared to those who drank (more less than three) such drinks per month.

Liver cancer has been linked to poor lifestyle choices, so the aim of the recent study, which was published in Current Developments in Nutrition, was to find out if sugar-sweetened beverages play a role.

University of South Carolina PhD student Longgang Zhao, lead author of the study, is reported to have said, “Our findings suggest that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is a potentially modifiable risk factor for liver cancer,” reports the Express.

He adds: “If our findings are confirmed, reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages could serve as a public health strategy to reduce the burden of liver cancer. Replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water and unsweetened coffee or tea could significantly reduce the risk of liver cancer.

As part of the study, researchers analyzed data from 90,504 postmenopausal women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative, which was a long-term study launched in the early 1990s.

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Participants were asked to complete baseline questionnaires (in the mid-1990s) and were followed for a median of 18 years—that is, half of the participants were followed for longer and half for less.

It found that 7% of participants reported consuming (one or more 12-ounce servings) sugar-sweetened beverages daily. Thus, a total of 205 women among the participants developed liver cancer during follow-up.

In addition, it was found that among those who drank (one or more sugar-sweetened beverages) per day, they were 78% more likely to develop liver cancer, and those participants who consumed (at least one soft drink per day ) were 73% more likely to develop liver. cancer, compared to those who never drank these drinks or consumed less than three such drinks per month.

Liver cancer diagnoses were confirmed using participants’ medical records.

However, despite these findings, the researchers stressed that this study cannot prove that sugary drinks cause liver cancer, only that there appears to be a link between regular consumption of sugary drinks and cancer.

They cautioned that the study is observational and was not designed to determine whether sugar-sweetened beverages actually cause liver cancer or whether consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is an indicator of other lifestyle factors that lead to liver cancer. .

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Researchers have noted that sugar-sweetened beverages can lead to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which are risk factors for liver cancer.

These sugary drinks also contribute to impaired insulin response and fat build-up in the liver—both factors in liver health.

Speaking about the link between sugary drinks and liver cancer, Zhao reportedly said: “Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, a postulated risk factor for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, can drive insulin resistance and inflammation, which are strongly implicated in liver. carcinogenesis.”

According to Cancer Research UK, there is no good evidence that sugar directly causes cancer. However, the charity adds that there is an indirect link between the risk of developing cancer and sugar consumption.

They said: “Eating a lot of sugar over time can make you gain weight, and strong scientific evidence shows that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer.”

Moreover, in a previous study (in 2019) Cancer Research noted that those people who consumed more sugary drinks had a slightly increased risk of cancer, regardless of their body weight.

It adds: “The study took weight into account, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions.”

Although the study “suggested that something else might be going on”, more studies will be needed to investigate this, it concludes.

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Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Health in New York, previously reported in US News in June that it is hard to tell from the study whether the relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and liver cancer is not just a marker of an unhealthy lifestyle.

“The question is: What are the lifestyles of people who consume at least one 12-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage per day?” she noted. “Is this population more likely to consume less fiber, less fruit and vegetables, and more red and processed meat, junk and fast food, and less likely to exercise?”

She also said there was a big gap between drinking one or more sugar-sweetened drinks a day compared to three servings a month.

“That said, sodas, fruit drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages have no nutritional value, contribute to overweight and obesity, and several associated chronic diseases.”

“There is no reason to drink them other than we are used to doing so and are encouraged to continue to drink them through media and advertising campaigns.

“Water, seltzer, teas, herbal teas, and even a splash of 100 percent fruit juice with water or seltzer are healthier choices,” she said.