Soft drinks have always been known to have a negative impact on your health. Even the “healthy” alternative diet sodas have been linked to increased risk of stroke. Many dieticians and doctors will vouch to limit your intake of soda or to abstain from it completely, as sodas have been linked to tooth decay, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and obesity. So it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that soda has also been known to cause damage to your liver.
Your liver is essential to the digestive system and is the organ responsible for ridding waste from the body. According to Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, and registered dietitian nutritionist in New York City, “The liver aids in metabolizing the carbohydrates, protein, and fat we consume, and then stores them as glycogen, vitamins, and minerals for later use, it also helps to remove toxins from our blood supply or make toxins less harmful to the body.”
As you may already know, many sodas are composed entirely of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and simple sugar. Although the liver is built to process and get rid of harmful toxins, fructose can be quite taxing on the organ, and may lead to future problems with the liver later on in life. A sugary beverage every now and then may not pose as many threats as everyday consumption would, however, being aware of these possible side effects of soda is equally as important and could prevent damage to this vital organ.
Here are four ways drinking soda can impact your liver:
According to one study, those who consumed four sugary drinks a day (totaling 40-80 grams of sugar) for just three weeks had increased insulin resistance in the liver. Insulin is a hormone secreted in the stomach that helps regulate blood sugar, and can help promote glucose intake, which is a primary source of energy for the body. Soda has also been found to increase risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
In recent studies, soft drink consumption has been linked to the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. With such heavy amounts of sugar, the soda can build up fat and overwhelm the liver. Symptoms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can manifest in fatigue, pain, and liver scarring, or possibly liver failure.
As stated before, the high level of sugar and high fructose corn syrup in sodas can negatively impact the liver. A 2020 study on mice discovered that those fed high fructose corn syrup for extended periods of time exhibited signs of deterioration in the intestinal wall barrier and inflamed livers. Deterioration can lead to possible liver failure, liver scarring, or liver cancer.
Cirrhosis, or liver scarring can be a result of heavy soda consumption. This kind of scarring can result when the liver tries to repair itself after injury from either soda consumption or disease. The injury over time can build up more scar tissue, which may prevent the liver from carrying out its most essential functions. One study places the risk for developing NAFLD and cirrhosis up to 30% when drinking lots of sugar heavy beverages.