You might think you’re doing your liver a favor by choosing sugary soda over alcohol every day.
But drinking it every day can be harmful to the liver – just as harmful as alcohol.
After reaching the liver, the sugar in the drink is converted into fat, which is stored in the liver cells. Over time, this can lead to fatty liver disease, which, if left untreated, can lead to severe scarring called cirrhosis. And it can be life-threatening.
This surprises many people – they never or rarely drink alcohol, but they have cirrhosis.
After 5 to 7 years, even one sugary drink a day increases the risk of liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, colon, pancreatic, and esophageal cancer.
How bad are sugary drinks for your liver?
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that drinking one or more sugary drinks every day for five to seven years can lead to liver disease. When I tell my patients this, they are often surprised.
How does drinking sugary drinks affect the liver?
When you drink sugary drinks, the sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in those drinks turn into fat in the liver. This puts stress on your liver cells and affects your ability to filter toxins from your body. The more fat that accumulates in your liver, the more likely you are to develop fatty liver, cirrhosis, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. However, exercise can help reduce the risk of fatty liver disease.
How common is fatty liver disease?
We see many patients with fatty liver disease, often due to a lifestyle that consumes sugary drinks.
Fatty liver disease is prevalent. Alcohol-induced cirrhosis is the most common cause of liver transplantation in the United States, while fatty liver disease is the second most common cause of liver transplantation in the United States due to rising obesity rates.
Over the past 20 years, liver transplants for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease have increased from 5.3% to 23%. That’s a pretty big increase.
How often can you drink sugary drinks without harming your liver?
Drinking sugary drinks once a week will have a good effect on the liver. Diet drinks are fine, but water is the best choice. Your body is 70% water, so it’s important to drink plenty of water.
What are the symptoms of liver failure?
Signs that something is wrong with your liver include nausea, loss of appetite, and lack of energy. There may also be pain in the liver and under the ribs on the right side. Over time, your skin and the whites of your eyes will turn yellow.
If you have liver disease, are you sick forever?
Fatty liver disease is reversible and treatable. It requires lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity, healthy eating, exercise, and weight loss. There are also several trials in Ohio that have looked at the benefits of certain drugs in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
How to prevent fatty liver in addition to eliminating or limiting sugary drinks?
If you are at high risk for liver disease, exercise more. Walk more, exercise more, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and drink more water. If you do all of these things, you can enjoy an occasional soda without harming your health.