April 26, 2010

Spoonfuls of sugar help heart disease go up

Many Americans wage an up and down battle with sugar, especially added sugars and caloric sweeteners found in processed food and beverages. These additives may help foods taste better but supply little, if any nutrients.

A new study by Emory researchers, published in the recent issue of Journal of the American Medical Association, shows eating higher amounts of these added sugars can change blood lipid levels and in turn increase heart disease risk factors.

The study analyzed U.S. government nutritional data and blood lipid levels in more than 6,000 adult men and women between 1999 and 2006. Study subjects were divided into five groups according to the amount of added sugar and caloric sweeteners they consumed daily.

Researchers found that people who consumed more added sugar were more likely to have higher cardiovascular disease risk factors, including higher triglyceride levels and higher ratios of triglycerides to HDL-C, or good cholesterol.

“Just like eating a high-fat diet can increase your levels of triglycerides and high cholesterol, eating sugar can also affect those same lipids,” says study co-author Miriam Vos, assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory School of Medicine and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta physician.

The highest-consuming group in the study consumed an average of 46 teaspoons of added sugars per day. The lowest-consuming group consumed an average of only about three teaspoons daily.

“It would be important for long-term health for people to start looking at how much added sugar they’re getting and finding ways to reduce that,” says Vos.

The study, “Caloric Sweetener Consumption and Dyslipidemia Among U.S. Adults,” is the first of its kind to examine the association between the consumption of added sugars and lipid measures, such as HDL-C, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C).

“We were able to see deterioration in lipid levels with higher consumption of these caloric sweeteners,” says study co-author and Emory researcher Jean Welsh.

Other study authors included Rollins School of Public Health researchers Jerome Abramson and Viola Vaccarino, and Centers for Disease Control researchers Andrea Sharma and Cathleen Gillespie.

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