Added Sugar Could Be Contributing to Nation’s Number One Killer

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Added Sugar Could Be Contributing to Nation’s Number One Killer By AnnElise Hatjakes, M.A.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States, contributing to one in every three deaths each year. A new study performed by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Harvard School of Public Health revealed that added sugar could play a role in CVD mortality. “On average, the majority of American adults consumed more added sugar than is recommended for a healthy diet, and higher consumption of added sugar was associated with significantly increased risk of CVD mortality,” Dr. Quanhe Yang, lead author of the study, said in an interview.1 In order to decrease this risk, he explained, “All adults are encouraged to limit their consumption of added sugar and solid fats to 5 percent to 15 percent of their daily caloric intake as recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” This study is unique in that it examined the total amount of added sugar in the American diet to look at the relationship between added sugar intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. “Previous studies have mainly focused on sugar-sweetened beverages and not the total amount of added sugar from both sugar-sweetened beverages and the added sugar in processed foods. Our study is the first study using the nationally representative samples to examine the relationship between total amount of added sugar intake and CVD mortality,” Dr. Yang said. When it comes to how different types of sugar affect the body, the heart does not seem to discriminate. Aside from naturally occurring sugars in fruit, researchers looked at several different types of sugar—all of which contributed to increased CVD mortality. “In our study we looked at added sugar from table sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, molasses and other caloric sweeteners in prepared and processed foods and beverages. We looked at sugar added during the processing and preparation of food, not the sugar that naturally occurs in fruit and fruit juices,” Dr. Yang said. Added Sugar—The Risks According to Dr. Yang, “Emerging evidence suggests that excessive intake of added sugar is associated with a number of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease such as the development of hypertension (e.g. high blood pressure), increased triglyceride levels and lowdensity lipoprotein (LDL) levels and decreased HDL levels and increased risk of being overweight or obese.”
Obesity is linked to the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and has been deemed a “major global health problem.”2 Sugar-sweetened beverage intake has been on the rise in recent decades and has contributed to rising rates of obesity. “Given the large number of comorbidities [presence of one or more additional disorders (or diseases) co-occurring with a primary disease], reduced quality of life, and high healthcare expenditures, large-scale obesity prevention efforts are now a priority for many countries around the world.”2 What You Can Do to Maintain a Healthy Heart One issue with reducing sugar intake is that sugar can be added during the processing or preparation of food and can’t be taken out, according to Dr. Yang. “It’s important to know the top sources of added sugar in our diet and then limit those products in order to lower your overall intake of added sugar. Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute most to added sugar consumption among American adults (37.1 percent). One 12-oz. can of regular soda contains about 9 teaspoons sugar (140 calories) or 7 percent of total calories/day (based on 2000 kcal/day),” Dr. Yang said. The other top contributors include the following: Grain-based desserts (cookies, brownies, cakes) Fruit drinks Dairy desserts (yogurt, ice cream) Candy Ready-to-eat cereals Yeast bread Age is another important consideration in the discussion of how people are affected by sugar. “Children and adolescents in the US consumed more calories from added sugar than adults. Further studies to examine the relationship between the higher intake of added sugar and potential health consequences including the risk for developing CVD among US children and adolescents will be useful,” Yang said. Children are especially prone to having diets with high levels of sugar due to the availability of processed foods with excess sugar. Beyond limiting consumption of added sugar, Dr. Yang suggests that people reduce any “modifiable risk factors” to reduce incidence of CVD. These risk factors include “high blood pressure and high cholesterol, smoking, lack of regular exercise, and eating a healthy diet.”
References 1. Yang, Quanhe, email interview, February 17, 2014. 2. Malik, MSc, V. S., Popkin, PhD, B. M., Bray, MD, G. A., Després, PhD, J., & Hu, MD, PhD, F. B. (2010). Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk. American Heart Association: Contemporary Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine.