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Consumption of artificial sugar raises risk of death from CVD

Tuesday February 4, 2014
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Many U.S. adults consume more added sugar — meaning sugar that is added in processing or preparing of foods and does not naturally occur as in fruits and fruit juices — than expert panels recommend for a healthy diet, and consumption of added sugar was associated with increased risk for death from cardiovascular disease, according to a study.

Recommendations for added sugar consumption vary and there is no universally accepted threshold for unhealthy levels, researchers wrote in background information for the study, which was published Feb. 3 on the website of JAMA Internal Medicine.

For example, the Institute of Medicine recommends that added sugar make up less than 25% of total calories, the World Health Organization recommends less than 10% and the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to less than 100 calories daily for women and 150 calories daily for men.

Major sources of added sugar in Americans’ diets are sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts and candy. A can of regular soda contains about 35 grams of sugar (about 140 calories).

Methodology and results

Quanhe Yang, PhD, of the CDC, and colleagues used national health survey data to examine added sugar consumption as a percentage of daily calories and to estimate association between consumption and CVD.

Study results indicate that the average percentage of daily calories from added sugar increased from 15.7% in 1988-94 to 16.8% in 1999-2004 and decreased to 14.9% in 2005-10.

In 2005-10, 71.4% of adults consumed 10% of more of their calories from added sugar and about 10% of adults consumed 25 percent or more of their calories from added sugar.

Risk of death from CVD increased with a higher percentage of calories from added sugar, the authors wrote. For example, people in the highest quintile of sugar consumption among study participants had twice the risk of dying from CVD compared with people in the lowest quintile, after adjustment for sociodemographic, behavioral and clinical characteristics.

Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (seven servings or more per week) also was associated with increased risk of dying from CVD.

“Our results support current recommendations to limit the intake of calories from added sugars in U.S. diets,” the authors concluded.

Commentary

“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,” wrote Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH, of the University of California, San Francisco. “It underscores the likelihood that, at levels of consumption common among Americans, added sugar is a significant risk factor for CVD 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.”

Study abstract: http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1819573


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