Most people would agree that sugar makes many types of products taste significantly better. Virtually everyone would also agree that sugar is bad for your health. What might come as a surprise is just how damaging a little extra sugar might be for the body. If a recent in-depth report is indeed correct, all of those sugary indulgences can wind up having a major impact on your heart.
The Widespread Presence of Added Sugars
What do table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, brown sugar, honey, molasses, dextrose and fructose all have in common? The answer is that they all qualify as types of added sugars. Furthermore, sugary additives can be found in a wide range of products. Added sugars are frequently found in each of the following items:
- Fruit Drinks
- Sweet Rolls
- Energy Drinks
- Sports Drinks
- Ice Cream
Given that added sugars have many aliases and are found in numerous products, it’s understandable why so many Americans consume so much sugar. Past research has unearthed links between added sugar consumption and other chronic health problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. The primary focus of these studies, however, concerned how sugary drinks could increase the risk of such conditions.
Sickening the Heart
A study released in 2014 broke new ground on this topic, detailing the relationship between overall added sugar intake and heart health. This particular report was published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of Internal Medicine. This study noted that most Americans (71%) get at least one-tenth of their daily caloric intake from added sugars. For roughly one in ten Americans, this figure swells to 25% or greater. On average, adults in the United States get 15% percent their total calories from sugars added to various products. For someone on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, this number would equate to 300 calories.
To put these figures in proper prospective, consider that the World Health Organization (WHO) advises that added sugars account for less than 10% of the calories we take in everyday. The American Heart Association advises a per day limit of 150 calories for men and 100 calories for women. These two figures are equivalent to 9 and 6 teaspoons of sugar, respectively.
Quanhe Yang, the study’s lead author and a senior scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noted that “the risk of cardiovascular disease death increases exponentially as you increase your consumption of added sugar.” Yang further stated that report is the “the first study using a nationally representative sample to look at the total amount of added sugar and the association to cardiovascular disease death.”
Yang and his fellow researchers based their conclusions on data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a collection of reports examining the health of American adults and children. Using this source, the research team was able to review the dietary habits of more than 31,000 people. Some highlights from the study are shown below:
- Compared to those who limited added sugars to 10% or less of their daily calories, people who consumed a high amount of these ingredients (21% or more of their total intake of calories) had twice the risk of suffering heart-disease related death.
- Subjects who consumed a slightly less amount of added sugar (17% to 21% of total daily calories) still adversely affected their long-term cardiovascular health. This group was 38% more likely to die from heart disease than subjects who followed the WHO’s recommendation.
- When contrasted with those who drank one serving or less of sugary drinks per week, people who consumed seven or more weekly servings of sugar-laden drinks were 29% likelier to succumb to heart disease.
- If there was a silver lining in the report, it was the fact that 15% figure for added sugar consumptions represents a slight decrease. In 2004, this number stood at 17%, before dipping to 15% by 2010.
In outlining the findings of Yang and his colleagues, Dr. Laura Schmidt of the University of California-San Francisco argued that the research “underscores the likelihood that, at levels of consumption common among Americans, added sugar is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease mortality above and beyond its role as empty calories leading to weight gain and obesity.”