Avoid fat-boosting fructose
For a long time we have been warned to reduce our intake of fizzy drinks due to their high levels of sugar. But now, researchers say carbonated drinks can also increase the fat content in your liver, which can lead to even more health problems. This is because of the fructose content, and the way our body handles it.
Fructose appears in sweetened drinks in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. Starting its journey in the intestines, it is delivered straight to the liver. While fellow ingredient glucose can by-pass the organ if it already has enough energy and move on to other parts of the body, fructose cannot.
Dr Kimber Stanhope from the University of California, Davis, explained it’s because there is an enzyme that works in the liver, which is constantly 'turned on'.
"So it takes any fructose it can get its hands on, even if the liver has enough energy," she said in a video.
If the liver needs the energy it will use it as fuel but if there is any excess, it remains in the organ and is transformed into fat.
"What we end up with is a fructose overload in the liver, and therefore it needs to start storing it as fat," she continued.
This means more fat will enter the bloodstream and increase the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood - which in turn can trigger metabolic syndrome.
Both cholesterol and triglycerides are important ways to measure heart health. When we eat, our body converts any calories it doesn't need to use right away into triglycerides and these are then stored in your fat cells.
But if you burn fewer calories than you eat, you are more likely to have raised levels of triglycerides in your blood, along with cholesterol and other fats.
"There is another problem: we believe liver fat decreases insulin's ability to do its job, and that increases the risk of diabetes," Dr Stanhope continued. "Another problem is that when your insulin isn't working well, it also causes more fructose to be turned into fat and it's also going to increase the amount of fat the liver sends into the blood. Another problem is that the group that consumed fructose tended to gain that weight within the abdominal cavity; this is what we call visceral fat and makes us apple shaped."