People with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease tend to drink larger quantities of soft drinks than those without the disease, according to new research published in the Journal of Hepatology.
The Israeli scientists behind the study said that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an important emerging health issue which warrants exploration of possible risk factors to allow for earlier diagnosis and treatment.
They found that those with the disease consumed five times more carbohydrates from soft drinks than subjects in a healthy control group, and that 80 percent of patients with NAFLD drank excessive quantities of soft drinks, defined as more than 500ml, or about 16.9fl oz a day.
In particular, they examined the relationship between NAFLD and metabolic syndrome, a condition that encompasses a number of risk factors for overweight and obesity, such as a large waistline, hypertension, high blood pressure, and low levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol – so-called ‘good’ cholesterol. They found that the more soft drinks their subjects consumed, the more likely they were to have NAFLD, independent of whether they had metabolic syndrome or not.
“The results of this study clearly indicate that NAFLD patients with or without metabolic syndrome consume more soft drinks compared to healthy controls,” the authors wrote. “Moreover, this study indicates that soft drink consumption is a strong predictor of fatty liver independent of metabolic syndrome.”
They added that the underlying cause of this result remains unknown.
In addition, the researchers noted that there are a number of other poor dietary and lifestyle habits associated with high soft drink consumption.
They wrote: “Soft drinks constitute the leading cause of added sugar in the diet. Individuals who drank more soft drinks tended to be sedentary, to eat less fiber and dairy, to have greater intake of saturated and trans fat, and to eat a higher-calorie diet that included more fructose and caramel.”
The study examined 31 patients with NAFLD and risk factors for metabolic syndrome, 29 patients with NAFLD but without risk factors for metabolic syndrome, and 30 healthy individuals.
Food and soft drink intake and physical activity information were measured through the use of two separate seven-day food questionnaires, while the degree of fatty liver disease was determined using ultrasound.
Source: Journal of Hepatology (2009)
“Soft drink consumption is associated with fatty liver disease independent of metabolic syndrome”
Authors: Ali Abid, Ola Taha, William Nseir, Raymond Farah, Maria Grosovski, Nimer Assy