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Added sugars in diet threaten heart health

The added sugars found in prepared and processed foods are threatening people’s cardiovascular health, lowering levels of protective HDL cholesterol, raising levels of potentially dangerous triglycerides and possibly making people fatter, suggests a new study.

Added sugars in diet threaten heart health

The added sugars found in prepared and processed foods are threatening people's cardiovascular health, lowering levels of protective HDL cholesterol, raising levels of potentially dangerous triglycerides and possibly making people fatter, suggests a new study.

Dietary carbohydrates have been associated with dyslipidemia, a lipid profile known to increase cardiovascular disease risk. Added sugars (caloric sweeteners used as ingredients in processed or prepared foods) are an increasing and potentially modifiable component in the diet. About half of that sugar is in soft drinks, but they are also present in cereals, baked goods and other food. One reason for their increased use is the growing concern about high-fat diets. When manufacturers reduce fat content in food, they often add sugar to make it taste better.

To assess the association between consumption of added sugar and blood lipid levels, researchers studied 6,113 adult Americans who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a survey designed to obtain nationally representative estimates on diet and health indicators. . Data regarding sugar consumption was collected from all the participants.

The results showed a significant increase in sugar consumption, from 11 percent of daily calories in 1977-78 to 16 percent at follow-up after seven years with the average adult consuming 3 ounces of added sugars a day - equivalent to 21 teaspoons, or 359 calories. Also, a very strong correlation was found between cardiovascular risk factors and the amount of sugar that people consumed. 

For adults who got 10 percent or more of their daily calories from sugar, the odds of low HDL cholesterol levels - the good cholesterol - were 50 percent to 300 percent higher than for those getting less than 5 percent of their calories from sugar. Higher consumption of sugar was also associated with higher levels of triglycerides, and a link between sugar consumption and levels of dangerous LDL cholesterol was seen for women but not for men. People who got 25 percent or more of their calories from sugar reported gaining an average of 2.8 pounds in the previous year, while those whose sugar intake accounted for less than 5 percent reported an average weight loss of about a third of a pound.

The study concluded that added sugar intake is associated with the risk factors for heart disease and researchers suggest the formulation of dietary guidelines that target a reduction in consumption of added sugar.

It is generally recommended that women should consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars a day - about one ounce, or six teaspoons - of sugar, and that men limit their intake to 150 calories a day, or about nine teaspoons. This sugar is best taken in a food product with other nutrients, such as flavored yogurt or a whole-grain breakfast cereal.
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