Upon taking office, the Netanyahu government immediately cancelled the soft-drink tax under pressure from the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) parties – and to the great dismay of health experts – because such beverages are cheap and especially popular in that sector.
Now, a new study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston’s Massachusetts General Healthcare System has found a link between drinking sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages and incidence of death from chronic liver disease and liver cancer.
There are hundreds of meters of shelves loaded with soft drinks in supermarkets catering to the haredi population, as well as to the general public – despite Health Ministry advertisements encouraging the drinking of water.
Thus one wonders why the government doesn’t seem to care about promoting serious diseases among older women.
About 65% of American adults and large numbers of their Israeli counterparts still drink such harmful beverages, including colas, on a daily basis.
The new research has just been published in the prestigious JAMA under the title “Sugar-Sweetened and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Liver Cancer and Chronic Liver Disease Mortality.”
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to report an association between sugar sweetened beverage intake and chronic liver disease mortality,” said first author and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Longgang Zhao, who worked with senior author Dr. Xuehong Zhang. “Our findings, if confirmed, may pave the way to a public-health strategy to reduce risk of liver disease based on data from a large and geographically diverse cohort,” they said.
This observational study included nearly 100,000 postmenopausal women from the large, prospective Women’s Health Initiative study. Participants reported their usual soft drink and fruit drink (not including fruit juice) consumption, and then reported artificially sweetened beverage consumption after three years. Participants were followed for a median of more than 20 years.
Researchers looked at self-reported liver cancer incidence and death due to chronic liver disease such as fibrosis, cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis, which were further verified by medical records. The primary outcomes were liver cancer incidence and death due to chronic liver diseases, which included nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, alcoholic liver diseases, and chronic hepatitis.
Sweet drinks bring 85% higher risk of liver cancer
A total of 98,786 postmenopausal women were included in the final analyses. The 6.8% of women who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened beverages daily had an 85% higher risk of liver cancer and 68% higher risk of chronic liver disease mortality compared to those who had fewer than three sugar sweetened beverages per month.
The authors noted that the study was observational so it could not yet prove causality. More studies, the said, are needed to validate this risk association and determine why the sugary drinks appeared to increase risk of liver cancer and disease and explain the potential mechanisms by integrating genetics, preclinical and experimental studies, and -omics data.