Too much added sugar isn’t just bad for your waistline and your risk of diabetes.
“Research suggests that consumption of typical amounts of added sugar over a lifetime is increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular death,” says Kimber Stanhope, a researcher at the University of California, Davis.
The case against added sugars (like high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar) has been mounting for years. For example, in 2014, researchers reported that people who consume the most added sugars are twice as likely to die of cardiovascular disease (largely heart attacks or strokes) than those who consume the least.1
And last year, Stanhope published a study that may explain why.
“We found direct evidence that added sugars increase risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” she says. The participants (aged 18 to 40) drank one of four Kool-Aid-like beverages with breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two weeks. The drinks were made with a dose of high-fructose corn syrup equal to 0, 10, 17½, or 25 percent of their daily calorie requirement.2
The higher the dose, the higher the participants’ LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and post-meal triglycerides.
“I didn’t expect to see anything at 10 percent, but we did,” says Stanhope. “Even the addition of that amount of sugar—equivalent to half a can of regular soda with each meal—was enough to raise risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”
How might sugars raise LDL and triglycerides?
It’s the fructose half of table sugar (sucrose), high-fructose corn syrup, and other added sugars that seems to cause trouble. “Fructose is nearly exclusively metabolized in the liver, so it doesn’t get to the rest of the body,” explains Stanhope. “When the liver gets overloaded, it turns some of the fructose into fat. Some of that fat ends up in the bloodstream as triglycerides, and that eventually leads to a rise in LDL cholesterol.”
“Our study found that people are sensitive even to the addition of 10 percent of their calories from sugars,” she adds. “And the more sugar you consume, the higher the risk.”
The bottom line
Women and children should limit added sugars to no more than 6 teaspoons
(100 calories’ worth) a day, as the American Heart Association
recommends .3 Men should limit themselves to 9 teaspoons—150 calories’ worth.
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