Cardiovascular Disease Risks Worse With Sugar

cardiovascular disease

The risk of dying from cardiovascular disease is worse for those with excessive added sugar in their diets according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. For purposes of the study, excessive sugar is 25 percent or more of all dietary calories. The term “added sugar” meant sugar included in the food or drink consumed as part of its preparation or processing and did not include sugars naturally found in fruits or vegetables. In other words, added sugar did not include sugar found in apples or carrots.

For those consuming 25 percent or more of their dietary calories from added sugar, they were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease or cardiovascular disease than those consuming less than 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugar. The risk of death from cardiovascular disease was worse with excessive added sugar consumption regardless of physical activity level, sex, age or weight. Even for those otherwise eating a diet of nutrient rich, healthy foods, the additional risk of death from sugar consumption still applied. The danger arose not from limiting other nutrients due to the sugar consumption. Instead, the additional risk came from the consumption of too much sugar.

The researchers studied the health status of over 31,000 individuals for over 10 years. The study participants filled out surveys in which they reported what they ate and drank. The researchers were able to compare the results from the surveys with deaths due to cardiovascular and heart disease. Of course, any study has limitations in terms of the reliability of the information reported by the participants. Nevertheless, participants might be more inclined to under-report sugar consumption or bad eating habits instead of reporting inaccurate overindulgence.

A large portion of added sugar in the average American diet comes from soft drinks and sweetened sports drinks. On average, a typical can of soda contains 11 teaspoons of added sugar. Each teaspoon contains about 15 calories. A teaspoon of corn syrup is even worse, it contains 20 calories. Most nutritionists recommend 10 percent or less of total calories from added sugar. To the extent a woman follows a 2,000 calorie per day diet and a man consumes 2,500 calories per day, only one can of soda per day is allowed if trying to stay within the optimal sugar consumption range. Given how many people drink large convenience store sodas or 20 ounce bottles, drinking one large size soda per day is too much. Soda and sports drinks are only the most obvious sugar culprits. Much processed food contains added sugar or corn syrup to improve the taste and many consumers are unaware of the sugar.

For many Americans consuming too much added sugar, they may be unaware their risk of death due to cardiovascular disease is worse, even if they otherwise consume enough nutrients and remain active. Researchers do not know the exact link between sugar and death from heart disease, but they are aware of sugar increasing certain risk factors. For all health conscious individuals, limiting added sugar consumption is the best medicine.

By William Costolo

JAMA Internal Medicine
USA Today
Harvard Medical School
New Hampshire Department of Health

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