Added Sugars Add to Your Risk of Dying from Heart Disease

Updated:Oct 21,2015

added sugar = added riskGetting too much added sugar in your diet could significantly increase your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in April 2014.

According to the study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine, those who got 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8 percent of their calories from added sugar. The study factored in some sociodemographic, behavioral, and clinical characteristics such as age, ethnicity, level of schooling, smoking, medication use, and others. The relative risk was more than double for those who consumed 21 percent or more of their calories from added sugar.

Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they’re processed or prepared.

Some examples of foods that may contain added sugars include:

  • sugar-sweetened beverages like regular soft drinks,
  • sugars and candy
  • grain-based desserts such as cakes cookies, and pies,
  • fruit drinks (fruitades and fruit punch),
  • dairy desserts and milk products including ice cream, sweetened yogurt, and sweetened milk,
  • other grain based foods such as cinnamon toast and honey-nut waffles

They have long been cited for contributing to obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

But this is the first study to tie these together and show that too much added sugar could lead to heart disease and kill you, said Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee and professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

According to the study, most U.S. adults consume about 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day.


AHA Recommendation

The American Heart Association recommends:

  • No more than 6 teaspoons or 100 calories a day of sugar for most women.
  • No more than 9 teaspoons or 150 calories a day for most men.

“This study is another confirmatory piece in the growing body of science that supports the American Heart Association’s recommendations,” said American Heart Association President Mariell Jessup, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and medical director of Penn’s Heart and Vascular Center.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars in the American diet. They should be limited to 36 ounces or 450 calories a week, Johnson said.

A can of regular soda packs about 35 grams of added sugars, equivalent to 8.75 teaspoons or 140 calories. Reducing or cutting out soda, fruit, sports and energy drinks as well as enhanced waters, sweetened teas and sugary coffee drinks can go a long way toward that goal, Johnson said.

The study says that federal guidelines and regulatory strategies are needed to help consumers control their sugar intake. “We should have added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label so consumers can tell how much added sugars are in the products they are buying,” Johnson said.

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Last reviewed 10/2015

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