According to a number of studies, the hepatitis C virus (HCV) can promote type 2 diabetes—and diabetes can increase the risk of cirrhosis of the liver and the most common type of liver cancer, called hepatocellular carcinoma.

“It has been known for some time that people with hepatitis C are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than uninfected people,” explains Susan Cabot, MD, author of the book The Liver Cleansing Diet.

Cabot says one possible explanation for this is that HCV triggers fat accumulation inside the liver. A fatty liver can’t absorb excess glucose from the bloodstream, so sugar levels can rise too high.

In type 2 diabetes, sugar builds up in the blood because the body can’t properly respond to insulin, a hormone we produce to regulate blood sugar levels. Too much sugar and insulin in the blood create a lot of inflammation in the body, and this, in turn, can help accelerate the progress of liver disease.