Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a build up of extra fat in the liver cells, but not from alcohol. NAFLD is common and is often linked to being overweight. In some people, the build-up of fat in the liver can lead to serious liver disease, and all people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

A recent research study from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, USA has shown that a daily sugar-sweetened beverage habit may increase the risk for NAFLD.

The researchers analyzed 2,634 self-reported dietary questionnaires from mostly Caucasian middle-aged men and women. Drinks in the study included:
• caffeinated- and caffeine-free colas
• fruit punches
• lemonade
• non-carbonated fruit drinks

The participants underwent a computed tomography (CT) scan to measure the amount of fat in the liver. The study concluded that there was higher prevalence of NAFLD among people who reported drinking more than one sugar-sweetened beverage per day compared to people who said they drank no sugar-sweetened beverages.

The study showed that there was no association between NAFLD and diet cola. As most sugary drinks contains more fructose that glucose, then these negative effects are more than likely be due to the fructose content in these drinks. Fructose which is absorbed further down in the duodenum and jejunum by a non-sodium-dependent process and also has several detrimental effects such as:
• Promoting de novo lipogenisis
• Inhibiting insulin secretion
• Enhancing leptin production resulting in increased food intake

Many CAM practitioners and nutritionist advocate the avoidance of sugary beverages. This point of view was reflected by the senior author of this research study, Nicola McKeown. She concluded, “Although there is much more research to be done, sugar-sweetened beverages are a source of empty calories, and people need to be mindful of how much they are drinking, perhaps by reserving this habit for special occasions.”

These are wise words from Dr McKeown, considering the undeniable detrimental effects of fructose in popular sugary beverages.