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Which Summer Beverages Can Help or Harm Liver Health?

It is important to drink plenty of fluids in the summer to stay hydrated. Learn about the best beverage choices you can make for your liver’s well being.

Unless you regularly consume plenty of water – and only water – you may not be aware of how each beverage impacts your liver. Especially important for the 30 percent of American adults who have a fatty liver or one of the millions of others with another form of liver disease, how you hydrate can play a role in the journey towards or away from improved liver health.

Glucose and Fructose

Barring a discussion of alcoholic beverages, one of the primary hazards posed to liver health by drinks stems from sugar content. Glucose and fructose are the most abundant sugars in our diet, yet our body processes them differently. Nearly every cell can metabolize glucose to create energy, but only liver cells can metabolize fructose. In addition to a series of chemical reactions, the liver uses fructose to create fat. Also known as lipogenesis, an over-abundance of fructose produces tiny fat droplets that accumulate in the liver. This buildup leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Experts believe that an accumulation of fat droplets fan inflammation in the liver, accelerating the progression of existing liver disease.

Fructose is found in a majority of beverages that are sweetened:

  • High-fructose corn syrup sweetened beverages are about 55 percent fructose.
  • Sucrose (refined sugar) sweetened beverages are about 50 percent fructose.

More specifically, researchers that published their study in a 2014 edition of the journal Nutrition found very high concentrations of fructose in many common sweetened drinks.

7 Harmful Beverages for Your Liver

Below is a sampling of quantities of fructose in one liter of seven popular beverages:

  1. Mountain Dew – 72.3 grams of fructose
  2. Minute Maid 100% Apple Juice – 65.8 grams of fructose
  3. Pepsi – 65.7 grams of fructose
  4. Arizona Iced Tea with Lemon Flavor – 59.3 grams of fructose
  5. Ocean Spray 100% Cranberry Juice – 55.4 grams of fructose
  6. 7-Up – 45.8 grams of fructose
  7. Tropicana 100% Orange Juice – 28.3 grams of fructose

Fructose Consumption

Believed to initially be a minor part of the human diet, scholars believe that the average American consumed about 15 grams of fructose per day in the early 1900s. Today, our fructose consumption averages closer to 60 to 75 grams per day – often due to ingestion of sweetened drinks. Confirmed recently by a Tufts University report published in the June 2015 edition of Journal of Hepatology, a daily, sugar-sweetened beverage habit is likely to increase the risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Although fructose content will not be listed on a drink’s product label, looking at the sugar content will help guide you towards better liver health choices:

  • Ideally, choose beverages that contain little or no sugar added to them – such as water, sparkling water, coffee or tea.
  • In general, minimize beverages that have more than 12 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce serving.

4 Healthy Summer Drink Substitutions

In addition, the following four beverage substitutions provide liver support while also being refreshing and/or promoting satiety.

  1. Instead of a sugary soda or sweet lemonade, drink still or sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh lemon. This refreshing beverage helps keep you hydrated and the lemon assists with liver detoxification.
  2. Instead of sugary fruit juices, give your water flavor by adding a few cubes of watermelon. This hydrating fruit gives your body a little fiber to combat obesity, antioxidants to quell inflammation (Vitamin C and Vitamin A) and potassium (an essential mineral often low in those with liver disease).
  3. Instead of sweetened iced tea, switch over to its unsweetened cousin. Natural, unsweetened iced tea contains beneficial polyphenols, antioxidants that help prevent liver cell damage. Black and green teas both contain polyphenols, but they also contain caffeine – a potentially dehydrating substance when consumed excessively. Making iced tea with a decaffeinated herbal tea is a great solution, and adding a handful of raspberries can help sweeten it without adding sugar.
  4. Instead of a Frappuccino or smoothie, consider a liver supportive protein shake like UltraNourish. This type of non-sweetened protein shake is ideal for getting a compromised liver the protein, antioxidants, enzymes and liver supportive herbs necessary to defend itself while providing a filling meal to satisfy hunger.

Swapping out sweet drinks with unsweetened ones is hard at the beginning. However, as your body acclimates to the sugar reduction, your sugary cravings will diminish. Choosing water or the low-sugar options described above will give your liver cells a break from accumulating fat, giving someone with a liver ailment a better chance of achieving a full recovery.


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http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-unsweetened-iced-tea-10394.html, Health Benefits of Unsweetened Iced Tea, Sylvie Tremblay, MSc, Retrieved July 12, 2015, Demand Media, Inc, 2015.

http://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/daily-sugar-sweetened-beverage-habit-linked-non-alcoholic-fatty-liver-disease, Daily Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Habit Linked to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Retrieved July 12, 2015, Tufts University, 2015.

http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/abundance-of-fructose-not-good-for-the-liver-heart, Abundance of fructose not good for the liver, heart, Retrieved July 12, 2015, Harvard University, 2015.

http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15879/1/Iced-Tea-Good-or-Bad.html, Iced Tea: Good or Bad?, George Cranston, Retrieved July 12, 2015, HealthGuidance.org, 2015.

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/sugary-drinks/, Sugary Drinks, Retrieved July 12, 2015, The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2015.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/juice-vs-soda_b_7735334, Is Juice Really Worse than Soda?, JJ Virgin, Retrieved July 12, 2015, TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 2015.

http://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/article/S0168-8278(15)00240-8/abstract, Sugar-sweetened beverage, diet soda, and fatty liver disease in the Framingham Heart Study cohorts, Jiantao Ma, et al, Retrieved July 12, 2015, Journal of Hepatology, June 2015.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/286438-the-effect-of-lemon-juice-on-liver-function/, The Effect of Lemon Juice on Liver Function, Jill Corleone, Retrieved July 12, 2015, Demand Media, Inc., 2015.

http://www.medpagetoday.com/Endocrinology/GeneralEndocrinology/39301, Low Potassium Linked with Liver Disease, Kristina Fiore, Retrieved July 12, 2015, MedPage Today, 2015.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/06/09/319230765/fruit-juice-vs-soda-both-beverages-pack-in-sugar-and-health-risk, Fruit Juice Vs. Soda? Both Beverages Pack In Sugar, Health Risks, Eliza Barclay, Retrieved July 12, 2015, NPR, 2015.

http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007%2814%2900192-0/fulltext, Fructose content in popular beverages made with and without high-fructose corn syrup, Ryan W. Walker, PhD, et al, Retrieved July 12, 2015, Nutrition, July-August 2014.

https://www.yahoo.com/health/the-scary-side-effect-of-a-daily-lemonade-fruit-121037724682.html, The Scary Side Effect of a Daily Lemonade, Fruit Drink or Soda, Korin Miller, Retrieved July 12, 2015, Yahoo! Health, 2015.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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