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Replacing Alcohol with Soda Not Good for the Liver

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
E. van Eekelen, MSc | PhD Candidate
Leiden University Medical Center
Dept. Clinical Epidemiology
Leiden, The Netherlands

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Fatty liver, defined as excess accumulation of fat within the liver, covers a broad clinical spectrum and is the leading cause of chronic liver diseases. It has also been linked to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The consumption of alcohol is a well-established risk factor for fatty liver. However, we hypothesized that consumption of non-alcoholic energy-containing beverages also leads to liver fat accumulation. We analysed data from the Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity (NEO) study, which is a prospective population-based cohort study including non-invasive measurements of liver fat content by magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Besides consumption of alcoholic beverages, sugar sweetened beverages were associated with more liver fat. We specifically showed that replacement of alcoholic beverages with milk was associated with less liver fat, whereas replacement with sugar sweetened beverages was associated with a similar amount of liver fat, even when taking calories into account. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: If someone is advised to refrain from alcohol consumption, it is important to also advise with what beverage the alcoholic beverage should be replaced. As sugar sweetened beverages are associated with liver fat to an equal extent, it is not be advisable to replace the alcohol with, for example, sugar-containing sodas or fruit juices. Replacement with tea, coffee or milk seems more beneficial.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Because of the strong link between excess liver fat and many chronic diseases, it is important to investigate if we can reduce liver fat accumulation with changes in lifestyle. One of our previous studies showed that certain food groups, and in particular the consumption of sweet snacks, were associated with liver fat. Randomized controlled trials should reveal whether dietary changes will result in actual changes in liver fat. Next to diet, we aim to study the role of physical activity in the accumulation of liver fat in a future study. 


Consumption of Alcoholic and Sugar-Sweetened Beverages is Associated with Increased Liver Fat Content in Middle-Aged Men and Women

Esther van Eekelen Joline W J Beulens Anouk GeelenVera B Schrauwen-Hinderling Hildo Lamb Albert de Roos Frits RosendaalRenée de Mutsert

The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 149, Issue 4, April 2019, Pages 649–658 ,https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxy313


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Last Updated on April 25, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD