Consumption of Added Sugar Linked to Increased Risk of Death from Cardiovascular Disease

First Posted: Feb 04, 2014 10:05 AM EST

Many Americans consume more sugar than they realize. A new study links this unhealthy habit to increased risk of death from cardiovascular diseases.

The study, reported in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, claims that the consumption of added sugar, which is usually hidden in processed food, elevates risk of death from cardiovascular disease, CVD.

The recommendations for sugar consumption vary. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the consumption of added sugar to be less than 25 percent of the total calories. The American Heart Association says that added sugar consumption should not be more than 100 calories per day for women and should be about 150 calories daily for men. Meanwhile, Institute of Medicine suggests the added sugar should be less than 25 percent of the total calories taken.

This study was based on the analysis of data collected by the national health survey. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, examined the consumption of sugar as a percentage of daily calories and found that Americans consume more than what is recommended by WHO.

"We know cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.," the study lead Quanhe Yang, Ph.D. of the CDC, Atlanta, told Reuters Health. "There are a lot of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Many of them are modifiable."

According to the results, the average percentage of daily calories from added sugar went up from 15.7 percent in 1988-1994 to 16.8 percent in 1999-2004. But from 2005-2010 there was a gradual decline of 14.9 percent.

Nearly 71.4 percent of the American adults during 2005-2010, consumed 10 percent excess calories that came from added sugar. Some 10 percent of the adults took 25 percent more calories from added sugar.

This added sugar comes from sweetened beverages, fruit drinks, desserts, candy and grain based desserts. A can of soda has 140 calories (35g of sugar).  On an average Americans consume 1.5 cans per day.

The risk of death from CVD soared with higher intake of calories from added sugar. Those adults who regularly consumed sugar sweetened beverages suffered a high risk of dying early from CVD.

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

Laura A. Schmidt, Ph.D., M.S.W., M.P.H., of the University of California, San Francisco said,  "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. 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. 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....,"

Studies in the past have revealed how excess intake of sugar sweetened beverages has a parallel increase effect on the rate of obesity. Obesity is one of the biggest risk factor for CVD that is the leading cause of death worldwide. Apart from obesity, smoking and tobacco consumption are other risk factors of CVD.

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