Added sugars and heart disease

April 20, 2010 3:09:49 PM PDT
You might try to limit your sugar, knowing it can increase your waistline. But a new report says it could also increase factors that can lead to heart disease. The report, in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, shows an association between having added sugars and unhealthy blood fats.

Added sugars is the term to indicate foods that have calories, but not nutrition.

Resisting sugary food is hard for many of us. But this study suggests that that added sugar is causing damage to the fats in our blood, fats which doctors call lipids - in other words, cholesterol and triglycerides.

"We were able to see deterioration in lipid levels with higher consumption of these caloric sweeteners," said Registered Nurse Jean Welsh, of Emory University.

The researchers studied U.S. government nutritional data and blood lipid levels in more than 6,000 adults. They divided them into five groups, according to the amount of added sugar and other sweeteners they ate daily.

"The highest consuming group consumed an average of 46 teaspoons of sugar, of added sugars," Welsh said. "The lowest consuming group consumed only about on average three teaspoons."

What the top added sugar consumers also had was higher levels of bad cholesterol, higher triglycerids and lower levels of the more desired good cholesterol, the HDL., than the other groups.

All of those factors put people at risk for heart disease.

The researchers say people who want to be healthier should look at how much added sugar they're getting and reduce it.

One way is to read nutrition labels.

"We think that by changing how much sugar someone eats, they may be able to actually improve those blood lipid levels and improve their cardiovascular disease risk," Dr. Miriam Vos said.

Researchers say the study did not look at natural sugars found in fruit and fruit juices, only added sugars and caloric sweeteners.

A lot of people who have high cholesterol are careful about the amount of fat they eat. It would be helpful to also try to control added sugars.