Consumption of Alcoholic and Sugar-Sweetened Beverages is Associated with Increased Liver Fat Content in Middle-Aged Men and Women

Esther van Eekelen*, Joline W. J. Beulens, Anouk Geelen, Vera B. Schrauwen-Hinderling, Hildo Lamb, Albert de Roos, Frits Rosendaal, Renee de Mutsert

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Fatty liver is the leading cause of chronic liver diseases and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Besides alcohol consumption, energy-containing nonalcoholic beverages may contribute to liver fat accumulation.

Objective: We aimed to study the consumption of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages and their mutual replacement in relation to hepatic triglyceride content (HTGC) in middle-aged men and women.

Methods: In this cross-sectional analysis, HTGC was assessed by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Habitual consumption of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages was assessed using a validated food-frequency questionnaire. All beverages were converted to standard servings and to percentage of total energy intake (En%). We performed linear regression to examine the association of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages with HTGC, adjusted for age, sex, smoking, education, ethnicity, physical activity, total energy intake, and total body fat. We studied replacement of alcoholic beverages with nonalcoholic beverages per 1 serving/d and per 5 En%/d.

Results: After exclusion of individuals with missing values, 1966 participants (47% men) were analyzed, with a mean +/- SD age of 55 +/- 6 y, BMI of 26 +/- 4 kg/m(2), and HTGC of 5.7% +/- 7.9%. Each extra alcoholic serving per day was associated with more liver fat (1.09 times; 95% CI: 1.05, 1.12). Replacing 5 En% of alcoholic beverages with milk was associated with less liver fat (0.89 times; 95% CI: 0.81, 0.98), whereas replacement with 5 En% of sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with liver fat to an extent similar to alcoholic beverages (1.00 times; 95% CI: 0.91, 1.09).

Conclusion: In a population-based cohort, consumption of each extra daily alcoholic beverage was associated with more liver fat. In isocaloric replacement of alcoholic beverages, milk was associated with less liver fat, whereas sugar-sweetened beverages were equally associated with liver fat. This suggests that intake of alcohol and sugars may contribute to liver fat accumulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-658
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • alcohol consumption
  • liver fat
  • substitution
  • alcoholic beverages
  • nonalcoholic beverages

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