By ANDR? PICARD
Published in?The Globe and Mail on Monday, Feb. 03 2014, 3:00 PM EST
People who get 25 per cent or more of their daily calories from added sugar have almost three times the risk of dying of heart disease, new research shows.
In fact, there is a direct correlation between the quantity of added sugar in a person’s diet and their cardiovascular health, according to a study publishedMonday?in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
While excessive sugar consumption has long been seen as a health risk, the new findings underscore a fundamental shift in thinking, one that holds that sugar does not only contribute to conditions such as obesity and diabetes, but damages the body’s organs directly.
?The new paradigm hypothesizes that sugar has adverse health effects above any purported role as empty calories? promoting obesity,? Laura Schmidt, a researcher at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California San Francisco writes in the journal.
?Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick.
The research should also spark a serious discussion on how much sugar is safe to consume, Ms. Schmidt added.
Currently, there are a broad range of views on what a safe level of sugar consumption might be, and it is a highly contentious issue with industry and regulators.
The U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends that people not consume more than 25 per cent of their daily calories in added sugars. The World Health Organization, for its part, sets the threshold at 10 per cent.
But the American Heart Association recommends that women get no more than five per cent of their daily calories from sugar, and men not exceed 7.5 per cent.
The new research, led by Dr. Quanhe Yang, a researcher in the office of public health genomics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seems to lend credence to the recommendations for much lower sugar consumption.
While the biggest consumers of sugar saw their risk of heart disease increase 2.75 times, even those in the range generally deemed acceptable, 10-25 per cent of daily calories, saw their risk increase by 30 per cent.
?The risk of CVD mortality increased exponentially with increasing the usual percentage of calories from added sugar,? Dr. Yang wrote in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The research was conducted using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which was conducted in various stages between 1988 and 2010; the long-running research projects collects detailed nutritional information and tracks mortality. Data from more than 43,000 people was included in this analysis.
Researchers focused on consumption of added sugars, a category that includes all sugar, corn syrups, honey, and maple syrup added to foods. It does not include sugars that naturally occur in fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
Added sugars made up 15.7 per cent of the average American’s diet in 1988, rose to 16.8 per cent in 1999 and dipped back down to 15.5 per cent in 2010. (According to the Canadian Sugar Institute, Canadians get about 13 per cent of their daily calories from added sugars.)
The main sources of added sugars, according to the CDC study, are:
- Sugar sweetened beverages such as soft drinks and sports drinks, 37 per cent;
- Desserts such as cakes and puddings, 14 per cent;
- Fruit drinks, nine per cent;
- Dairy desserts, six per cent;
- Candy, six per cent.
Dr. Yang and the research team found that a person who drinks an average of one sugar sweetened beverage daily has a 29 per cent higher risk of dying of heart disease than a person who drinks just one a week.
A single can of pop such a Coke contains 35 grams of sugar and 140 calories.
According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian downs the equivalent of 26 teaspoons of sugar a day, which accounts for 21 per cent of calories consumed; that figure, however, includes both added sugars and naturally occurring sugar.
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