Sugar in Food: Increasing Your Risk of a Heart Attack?

Added sugars—including ordinary sugar and high-fructose corn syrup—have been linked to a higher risk of dying of a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers tracked roughly 11,700 people in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III—a nationally representative sample of Americans—for 15 years. Those who got at least 10 percent but less than 25 percent of their calories from added sugars had a 30 percent higher risk of dying of a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular event than those who got less than 10 percent of their calories from added sugars. The risk was nearly three times higher for the one in 10 participants who got at least 25 percent of their calories from added sugars.

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People who drank at least seven servings of sugar-sweetened beverages a week had a 29 percent higher risk of dying of cardiovascular disease than those who consumed no more than one serving a week.

What to do: This kind of study can’t prove that added sugars cause lethal heart attacks or strokes, since something else about people who eat more sugar may explain their higher risk. But added sugars increased some risk factors for heart disease in other studies, so it’s worth aiming for the American Heart Association’s daily limits: 100 calories’ worth (6 teaspoons) for women and 150 calories’ worth (9 teaspoons) for men. In particular, minimize sugar-sweetened beverages (including sodas, energy drinks, fruit drinks, and commercially sweetened tea or coffee drinks), which account for upwards of 40 percent of the average person’s added-sugar intake. Sweetened beverages also have been linked to a higher risk of diabetes and weight gain.

Source: JAMA Intern. Med. 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13563.

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