Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) analyzed nutrition surveys of U.S. adults from the
past couple of decades and found most were getting more sugar than
the daily limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
What's more, participants who got more than the recommended amount
of calories from added sugar were more likely to die of heart
disease, compared to those who typically got less added sugar.
"We know cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the
U.S.," Quanhe Yang told Reuters Health. "There are a lot of risk
factors for cardiovascular disease. Many of them are modifiable."
Yang, the study's lead author and a researcher at the CDC in
Atlanta, said one factor that can be modified is the amount of added
sugar a person eats.
Unlike sugars that occur naturally in fresh ingredients like fruit,
added sugars are incorporated into food during processing and
Researchers and doctors have identified added sugars as a problem
spot in American diets, but there are conflicting guidelines over
how much adults can safely eat.
Yang and colleagues write in JAMA Internal Medicine that the
Institute of Medicine recommends added sugars make up less than 25
percent of a person's daily calories, and the WHO suggests 10
percent as the limit.
The American Heart Association, on the other hand, sets the limit
for added sugars at 100 calories per day for women and 150 calories
per day for men.
For the new study, the researchers used data from a series of
studies that periodically asked U.S. adults about their diets
between 1988 and 2010. More than 31,000 people were surveyed during
The authors found adults got an average of 16 percent of their
calories from added sugars between 1988 and 1994. That increased to
about 17 percent between 1999 and 2004, but fell to about 15 percent
between 2005 and 2010.
During the 2005 to 2010 span, about 71 percent of U.S. adults were
getting 10 percent or more of their calories from added sugars.
About 10 percent were getting at least 25 percent of their calories
from added sugars.
The most common sources of added sugar were sugar-sweetened
beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts and
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The researchers also looked at data on 11,733 people who had been
asked about their diets in the early study years and were tracked
through 2006. Over about 15 years, 831 died of cardiovascular
disease, which includes conditions such as heart attacks, strokes
and artery disease.
Compared to people who got less than 10 percent of their daily
calories from added sugar, those who got between 10 and 25 percent
of their calories from added sugar were 30 percent more likely to
die of cardiovascular disease during that time. Those who got 25
percent or more of their calories from added sugar were more than
twice as likely to die of cardiovascular disease.
That increased risk couldn't be explained by differences in people's
age, sex, education, smoking habits, physical activity, medications,
blood pressure, weight or other components of their diets.
In an accompanying editorial, Laura Schmidt of the University of
California, San Francisco wrote that the new study lends more
research to the theory that added sugar is not only a marker of an
unhealthy lifestyle, but may itself be the cause of some health
"What's really interesting and important for readers to understand
is they linked sugar consumption — independent of all other risk
factors — to cardiovascular disease," Schmidt told Reuters Health.
"We're hearing a lot about sugar these days," she said. "The reason
is because we're seeing an impact on health above and beyond its
role in obesity."
JAMA Internal Medicine, online Feb. 3, 2014.
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