The British Soft Drinks Association has hit back at a study claiming that drinking two cans of carbonated soft drinks per day could cause long-term liver damage.

Researchers at the Ziv Liver unit in Haifa, Israel, said that people who drank a litre of high-sugar carbonated drinks or fresh fruit juice each day were five times more likely to develop fatty liver disease, leading to victims needing a potential transplant.

The results of the study, published this week, showed that 80% of those who had consumed these drinks had fatty liver changes. However, only 17% of the control group, who had not conusmed the drinks, developed fatty livers.

In response to the research, the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) argued that the study was based on a "very small" sample size, and didn't show any causal relationship between soft drinks consumption and liver damage.

A group of 90 people - 45 men and 45 women aged 40-50 - took part in the study.

"Moderate consumption of soft drinks is safe and people can continue to enjoy such drinks as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle," a spokesperson for BSDA said.

"The soft drinks industry is committed to encouraging responsible consumption of all its products. Nutrition labelling is included on pack so people can make an informed choice about the products they are drinking."

The industry body added that around 61% of soft drinks are now low calorie, diet and no added sugar drinks and that the industry provides "a wide range of drinks and pack sizes to meet every occasion, taste and need".