Food & Drink | November 17, 2021 11:56 am

This Non-Alcoholic Beverage May Be Destroying Your Liver

A new study suggests certain drinks could potentially cause pain, fatigue and even liver failure in older generations

Soda splashing down on a glass of ice sitting on a table outside on a sunny day. Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda may cause some forms of liver damage, according to a new study.
Not everything that causes liver damage can be traced back to booze
William Moreland / Unsplash

The liquid causing the most damage to your liver may not actually be booze, according to a new study. It’s soda.

In the new paper (a collaboration between multiple Massachusetts universities), entitled “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage, Diet Soda, and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Over 6 Years: The Framingham Heart Study,” researchers looked at the average sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) or diet soda consumption of participants from the long-running Framingham Heart Study, which began in 1948. The new research examined 1,636 descendants of the original study, both offspring and third generation.

As the health site Eat This Not That! explains, researchers then weighed these soda self-reports against the incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition that affects one in four Americans. As the Mayo Clinic notes, “Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol. As the name implies, the main characteristic of NAFLD is too much fat stored in liver cells.” Fatigue and pain are common symptoms, but advanced scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure are also possibilities.

For the older generation in the study, the results aren’t good for diet soda drinkers. “Frequent SSB consumers had 2.53 times increased odds of incident NAFLD compared to non-consumers,” as the study concludes, although notes younger people in the study did not have a “consistent” association between sugary beverage consumption and NAFLD.

Long story short: You may want to cut down or completely cut out sweetened soda consumption as you get older.