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Secret Ways Drinking Soda Damages Your Liver, Says Science

This sugary drink can seriously damage this vital organ.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

By now you're probably familiar with the impact drinking soda (and diet soda) has on your waistline, but these sugary, carbonated drinks can also negatively affect your liver in serious and substantial ways.

In fact, soda and diet soda can be so detrimental to your liver that drinking it consistently may be akin to how medical drug use and excessive drinking can cause liver damage. This is because many chemicals found in soft drinks have a negative impact on the liver and other parts of the body.

For example, aspartame, an artificial sweetener found in many soft drinks and other food products, has been found to alter the functional status of the liver in rats, which in turn can lead to hepatotoxicity. Hepatotoxicity is liver damage that is typically caused by drugs, such as Ibuprofen and erythromycin.

Considering the liver is an essential part of the body that regulates most chemical levels in the blood and metabolizes fats, you should strive to keep it as healthy as possible.

Keep reading for more scientific evidence that shows how soda can damage your liver. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Hamed Mohtashami pouya/ Unsplash

According to a 2008 study printed in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, soft drink consumption can contribute to Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). The researchers, who were based in Israel, monitored 310 patients with NAFLD diagnosed by ultrasound for 36 months. Thirty-one patients who had NAFLD without classic risk factors were compared with 30 healthy controls.

Per the research team, 25 of those 31 people (80%) consumed more than 50 grams of added sugar a day from soft drinks for 36 months, compared with just 20% in healthy controls. Among the patients who had consumed excessive soft drinks, all of them had varying degrees of fatty liver disease, from mild to severe. Additionally, when controlled for other factors, including dietary composition and physical activity, soft drink beverage consumption was the only independent variable that was able to predict the presence of fatty liver in 82.5% of cases.

Nimer Assy, one of the researchers who conducted the study, suggested that the aspartame found in Diet Coke (and other diet sodas) might increase insulin resistance and trigger fatty liver disease.

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Speaking of aspartame, the artificial sweetener that's typically used to give diet soda a sugary boost, can damage your liver. A 2017 study that was published in the Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism, found that aspartame may act as a chemical stressor to alter the functional status of the liver in rats, which can lead to hepatotoxicity.

Hepatotoxicity is typically liver damage caused by exposure to drugs. In other words, aspartame has the power to be so harmful to the liver that it's basically as damaging to the organ as doing drugs.

Accumulation of Formaldehyde

drinking soda

A separate study conducted in Spain found that even small doses of aspartame caused formaldehyde to accumulate in rats' livers and bind to protein molecules.

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring gas that is used in many household products and can be added as a preservative to food. Additionally, it can be produced as the result of cooking and smoking.

It has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory test animals, while exposure to relatively high amounts of formaldehyde in medical and occupational settings has been linked to some forms of cancer in humans.



Cirrhosis of the liver, which is typically associated with alcohol abuse, is chronic liver damage that can occur from a variety of causes. It can lead to scarring and liver failure if left untreated.

Soda has been linked to cirrhosis because of a chemical found in the drink called sodium benzoate, which is a preservative that can prevent mold. According to a British researcher named Peter Piper at Sheffield University, sodium benzoate—AKA E211—is bad news for your body because it can damage cells in your liver and other vital organs.

Piper tested the impact of sodium benzoate on living yeast cells in his lab and found that the benzoate damaged a critical area of DNA in the "power station" of cells known as the mitochondria. In fact, Piper discovered that sodium benzoate had the power to inactivate DNA in the mitochondria, which can lead to serious cells malfunctions and has been linked to Parkinson's and a host of neurodegenerative diseases.

Though certain brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi have stopped using sodium benzoate in their soft drinks, it's still worth looking out for it when you're reading a nutrition label.

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