Food, Health

Consuming Even Small Amounts Of Sugar Can Affect The Liver

Oakville Family Health

Eating too much sugar is never a good thing. And new research has also gone on to prove that taking in even just moderate amounts of particular types of sugar could possibly double the production of fat in the liver. When this happens, people are more prone to developing fatty liver disease, as well as type 2 diabetes.

In a recent study, researchers found that consuming sucrose actually boosted fat synthesis slightly more than when consuming the same amount of fructose. While sucrose and fructose are both types of sugar that contain the same number of calories gram for gram, what makes them differ is the way that the body digests and metabolizes them, which can make all the difference.

This recent study shows evidence about the possible dangers of taking in too much sugar, saying that consuming even conservative amounts of sugar can possibly lead to a change in one’s metabolism.

The research team, comprised of members from the Medical University of Graz, Austria, the University of Zurich, and the University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland published their study findings in the Journal of Hepatology.

Although some sugars can be found in such natural components like vegetables and fruits, a lot of what people eat on a day-to-day basis, like processed foods, contain tons of added sugars. These types of added sugars are actually added to food and beverages by manufacturing companies in order to increase flavor or to improve the texture and appearance of their products.

High sugar intake also continues to be linked to a number of pressing health problems like type 2 diabetes, which was mentioned above. Other health issues include obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Back in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a guideline recommending both adults and children alike to ‘reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake.’ They also add that there should be a ‘reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.’

Also in 2015, an alarming article came out from the market research firm Euromonitor, which reported that the average individual in the United States consumes over 126 grams of sugar per day. According to the American Heart Association, men should only have 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of added sugar daily, while women are recommended to only have 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams of added sugar a day.

In Germany, the average individual consumes around 102.9 grams, while in the United Kingdom, they scored 93.2 grams daily for the average person. Switzerland didn’t even make the top 10 of highest sugar consumers, yet the average individual sits around 76.1 grams of sugar per day, still much higher than the daily recommended intake.


Studying Moderate Intake of Added Sugar

The authors of the study wanted to find out what happened when the average individual ingested moderate amounts of added sugar.

The study was carried out during the years 2013 to 2016 with 94 male participants that were considered healthy. They were between the ages of 18 to 30 with a body mass index below

24kg/m2 which is considered the average to moderate weight.

The researchers also shared that they selected particular volunteers that were under a certain weight in order to lessen the chances of choosing participants that might have already developed higher fat content in their livers. They also note that they did not include men who normally drink sugar-sweetened beverages daily, or those that reported at least three days of physical exercise per week.

As for females, the research team explained that they did not include them “as there is evidence for divergent metabolic effects of fructose on male and female subjects.”

As in another study done back in 2008, the results showed that fructose caused “markedly blunted” effects on the metabolism of younger female participants as compared with the male volunteers.


What is the Impact of Sugar-Sweetened Drinks on the Body?

In the beginning of the study, the research team requested that the participants abstain from drinking any sugar-sweetened drinks for at least four weeks. Then they had participants drink sugar-sweetened drinks that contained either sucrose, fructose, or glucose three times a day. This resulted in their intake of  80 grams of each kind of sugar every day.

Then another group of participants was requested to continue in abstaining from consuming sugar-sweetened beverages.

In order for the researchers to see how the participants were affected by the drinks with added sugar, they used tracers, which are basically ‘substances that can be followed as they move through the body.’

What the research team found overall is that participants did not necessarily consume more calories than they did before participating in the study. But they hypothesize that taking in sugary drinks did increase the volunteer’s satiety, which made them eat less calories from other food sources.

The study also found that while the participants took in about the same amount of calories, by adding sugar-sweetened drinks to their every diets, they made an impact to their overall health, and not a positive one.

They found that volunteers that drank sugar-added beverages with fructose produced twice as much fat than those that either drank the beverages sweetened with glucose, or those that abstained from consuming sugar-sweetened drinks at all.

Dr. Philipp Gerber of the Department of Endocrinology, Diabetology, and Clinical Nutrition at the University of Zurichexplained, “This was still the case more than 12 hours after the last meal or sugar consumption.” This fat buildup in the liver can lead to quite a number of serious health issues like type 2 diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Notably, the team also highlights their surprising find that sucrose, otherwise known as table sugar which is usually the type of sugar that most humans ingest, actually ‘boosted fat synthesis slightly more than the same amount of fructose.’ Before this, most scientists believed that fructose was the kind of sugar that caused these types of changes.

Dr. Gerber also explains that most Swiss nationals don’t bother to follow the WHO recommended advice of 25 grams of sugar for one’s daily sugar limit. He also shares, “Our results are a critical step in researching the harmful effects of added sugars and will be very significant for future dietary recommendations.”

Yet, the scientists also share the kind of limitations they were faced with during their study.

They claim they had “little control” over the compliance of the participants in the study, as well as not knowing their “intestinal capacity” either. Basically, this means that because they don’t exactly know each individual participant’s tolerance of fructose, it’s important to note that these details could have caused variations to the results of the study.