To your health: Skip sugary drinks at your next picnic

By Alfred Casale - To Your Health | July 7th, 2015 6:00 am

By Alfred Casale

To Your Health

Alfred Casale To Your Health Casale To Your Health

Lemonade, sweet iced teas and sodas are staples at summer picnics and barbecues for their cool sweetness that refreshes us from the heat. However, according to a new study, you might want to skip these super-sugary beverages.

We’ve long known that sodas and other sugar-laden drinks are bad for you. A vast body of research has shown there’s a link between these kinds of drinks and tooth decay, heart disease, kidney stones and more.

But there’s another risk sodas and sugary drinks can have for your overall health – researchers from Tufts University discovered that people who drink just one –yes, one! – or more sugar-sweetened beverage a day are at an increased risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease describes the accumulation of fat in the liver of people who drink little to no alcohol. Some cases of this disease result in no signs, symptoms or complications. But more serious incidents of this disease can cause inflammation and scarring in the liver. At its most severe state, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can progress to liver failure.

According to the American Liver Foundation, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease affects up to 25 percent of Americans. It often occurs in people who are overweight or have diabetes.

Many studies have suggested that the high fructose corn syrup used in sodas and other sweet drinks is more likely to result in fatty liver than other forms of sugar. And the troubling part of that finding is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 25 percent of adults in the U.S. drink soda or fruit drinks at least once a day.

The link between sugary beverages and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease isn’t all that surprising – the sugars in those drinks add a lot of extra calories to your diet. Continually consuming extra calories can lead to weight gain and obesity, a risk factor for diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in addition to a plethora of other health conditions.

If you already have this disease, it’s important to note that you can recover from it.

The liver has the highest capacity to regenerate compared to the other organs in your body. If you change your diet and lifestyle habits, the fat in your liver, the inflammation and scar tissue can regress.

One important change to make to recover or prevent this disease is to cut way back on soda and sugary drinks.

Although you may find these drinks delicious and refreshing, they’re simply not good for you.

At your next picnic, opt for water instead – it’s free of sugar and will keep you hydrated in the summer heat. Give it a punch of flavor with a squeeze of fresh fruit if you find it bland. If you crave the bubbles of soda, sip on seltzer with a little splash of real fruit juice or a sprig of mint.

Dr. Alfred Casale is chairman of surgery for the Geisinger Heart Institute, co-director of the Cardiovascular Service Line for the Geisinger Health System and Associate Chief Medical Officer for the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center. Readers may write to him via [email protected]