Analyzing data from more than 2,500 participants enrolled in a National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute study, Tufts University researchers have reportedly concluded that “a daily sugar-sweetened beverage [SSB] habit may increase the risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).” Jiantao Ma, et al., “Sugar-sweetened beverage, diet soda and fatty liver disease in the Framingham Heart Study cohorts,” Journal of Hepatology, June 2015.

The study relied on self-reported dietary questionnaires to assess consumption of SSBs—including soda and other sweetened carbonated beverages, fruit punches, lemonade and non-carbonated fruit drinks— then used computer tomography (CT) scans “to measure the amount of fat in the liver.” Although the study found no association between diet soda intake and NAFLD, it evidently reported “a higher prevalence of NAFLD among people who reported drinking more than one [SSB] per day compared to people who said they drank no [SSBs].” “Our study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that sugarsweetened beverages may be linked to NAFLD and other chronic diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said one of the authors in a June 5, 2015, press release. “Few observational studies, to date, have examined the relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and NAFLD. Long-term prospective studies are needed to help ascertain the potential role of sugar-sweetened beverages in the development of NAFLD.”