Sugary Food And Drinks Linked To An Increased Risk For Cardiovascular Disease
February 4, 2014

Deadly Sweet: Added Sugars Linked To Cardiovascular Disease Risk

[ Watch the Video: Will Sugar Kill You Eventually? ]

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Many adults consume more than the recommended amount of processed, or “added,” sugar per day – potentially increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Recommendations for added sugar usage vary and there is no widely accepted threshold for unsafe levels. According to the study background, the non-governmental Institute of Medicine recommends that added sugar makes up less than 25 percent of overall calories, the World Health Organization says less than 10 percent, and the American Heart Association advises limiting added sugars to less than 100 calories per day for women and 150 calories per day for men. Major sources of added sugar in the typical American diet are sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy products and candy.

In the study, scientists used national health survey data to investigate added sugar intake as a percentage of daily calories and to approximate association between intake and cardiovascular disease. They found that the average percentage of daily calories from added sugar jumped from 15.7 percent between 1988 and 1994, to 16.8 percent between 1999 and 2004. Intake percentage then dropped to 14.9 percent between 2005 and 2010.

In the 2005-2010 study period, over 71 percent of participants got 10 percent of more of their calories from added sugar and about 10 percent of adults ate 25 percent or more of their calories from added sugar.

The researchers said the risk of death from cardiovascular disease rose along with the higher percentage of calories from added sugar. Regular intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, considered seven servings or more per week, was linked to increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

"Our results support current recommendations to limit the intake of calories from added sugars in US diets," the authors wrote.

"We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in research on the health effects of sugar, one fueled by extremely high rates of added sugar overconsumption in the American public,” wrote Laura A. Schmidt – a health policy professor at the University of California, San Francisco – in an accompanying editorial.

"In sum, the study by Yang et al contributes a range of new findings to the growing body of research on sugar as an independent risk factor in chronic disease,” she continued. “It underscores the likelihood that, at levels of consumption common among Americans, added sugar is a significant risk factor for (cardiovascular disease) mortality above and beyond its role as empty calories leading to weight gain and obesity.”

"Yang et al underscore the need for federal guidelines that help consumers set safe limits on their intake as well evidence-based regulatory strategies that discourage excess sugar consumption at the population level," Schmidt added.

In reaction to the new study, the American Beverage Association issued a statement highlighting its members’ efforts to reduce the amount of sugar in their products.

“This study shows that adult consumption of added sugars has actually declined, as recently reported by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),” the statement said. “A significant part of that reduction is from decreased added sugars from beverages due, in part, to our member companies’ ongoing innovation in providing more low- and no-calorie options. Furthermore, this is an observational study which cannot – and does not – show that cardiovascular disease is caused by drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.”