More evidence links high sugar diet to increased risk of heart disease

Back in February I wrote a piece about how replacing dietary fat with sugar and refined carbohydrates was potentially damaging to health and more recently I mentioned research which linked high GI diets to an increased risk of heart disease in women.

New evidence (1) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that there was a statistically significant correlation between dietary added sugars and blood lipid [fat] levels among US adults.  In the paper the study authors note that dietary carbohydrates have been associated with dyslipidemia, a blood fat profile known to be associated with an increased cardiovascular disease (Heart disease) risk.  The researchers wanted to look at the association between the consumption of added sugars in the diet and blood fat levels.  The study involved over 6000 individuals who were grouped by their intake of added sugars – less than 5 percent of total calories [reference group], 5 percent to less than 10 percent, 10 percent to less than 17.5 percent, 17.5 percent to less than 25 percent, and 25 percent or more of total calories.  The authors then looked to see how various blood fat levels were affected in the various groups of sugar consumption.  They looked at the ‘good’ cholesterol high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and various types of blood fat that are known risk factors for heart disease such as triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C)

Consuming a higher amount of added sugars in processed or prepared foods was associated with lower levels of the ‘good’high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides, which are important risk factors for cardiovascular disease (1).

The authors of the study write (1)Monitoring trends in consumption and understanding the effect added sugars have on risk of cardiovascular and other diseases is critically important, because added sugars are a potentially modifiable source of calories,” “Added sugars are food additives that can be recognized by consumers and have been proposed for specific labeling on food and beverage packaging. The results of our study demonstrate that increased added sugars are associated with important cardiovascular disease risk factors, including lower HDL-C levels, higher triglyceride levels, and higher ratios of triglycerides to HDL-C.” 

Evidence seems to be accumulating for the dangers to health of eating too much added sugar and sugary foods.  Although further evidence is needed before firm conclusions can be made it would seem wise that we aim to curb consumption of foods which contain high amounts of added sugar.  The authors echo this sentiment by writing (1)Although long-term trials to study the effect of reducing added sugars and other carbohydrates on lipid profiles are needed, our data support dietary guidelines that target a reduction in consumption of added sugar.”

(1)J A Welsh et al.  2010.  Caloric Sweetener Consumption and Dyslipidemia Among US Adults. JAMA. 2010;303(15):1490-1497

Written by Ani Kowal