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April 24, 2010

Large Amounts of Added Sugars Increase Risk of Heart Disease

by Carol Pearson

A new report by an industry analyst says global sugar consumption will reach 176 million tons by 2015. That's about 20 percent more than the estimated sugar consumption for 2010. Given the link between sugar and heart disease, the increase is significant.

Studies show that global sugar consumption has risen dramatically from 11 million tons in 1900 to about 145 million tons today.

Analysts attribute the growth to population increases and greater wealth.

What used to be a rare food additive is now a staple. High fructose corn syrup and other forms of sugar are routinely added to processed food and many beverages.

The study included all added sugar, even the sugar people add to their coffee.

While this may be good for the sugar industry, it is not good for the heart.

Dr. Miriam Vos and public health nurse Jean Welsh at Emory University collaborated in a study that shows eating a lot of sugar can increase your cholesterol and triglycerides which make up body fat also known as lipids. And that increases the risk for heart disease. "Just like eating a high fat diet can increase your levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, eating sugar can also affect those same lipids," she said.

The researchers studied US government nutritional data and fat levels in the blood in more than 6,000 adults for at least six years.

The participants were divided into five groups according to the amount of sugar and sugar-based sweeteners they consumed daily. "The highest consuming group consumed an average of 46 teaspoons of sugar of added sugars. The lowest consuming group consumed only about on average three teaspoons," Welsh said.

"We found that people who consumed more added sugar are more likely to have high cardiovascular disease risk factors," said Dr. Vos.

Like declining HDL or "good" cholesterol. They found that high sugar consumption negatively affected HDL. HDL improves heart health and doctors want to see high HDL numbers.  

"One of the things that this study was really helpful to show is that the amount of added sugar, as it increases, the triglycerides go up and the HDL goes down," said Dr. Vos.

The researchers found that HDL levels in those who consumed the most sugar were 20 percent lower than those who consumed the least amount.

The researchers say if people want to avoid heart disease, they should be more aware of how much sugar is in their food, and reduce it, if need be.

The American Heart Association says most American women should not consume more than 100 calories of added sugars per day; most men, no more than 150 calories.

It also warns that soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one source of added sugars in the American diet.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association