New research recently published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that individuals who consume high amounts of added sugar in their diet may be at increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the average American consumes around 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day - the equivalent to an extra 350 calories.
Added sugars are most commonly found in foods such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and soft drinks.
The research team, led by Quanhe Yang of the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), notes that a regular can of soda contains around 35g of sugar (approximately 140 calories).
Previous research has associated a high added sugar intake with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). But the investigators say that few studies have looked at the link between added sugar intake and CVD mortality.
For their study, the researchers analyzed data from national health surveys in order to determine exactly how much added sugar is consumed as a percentage of daily calories among US adults.
The research team then estimated the association between added sugar consumption and CVD mortality.
Significant increase in CVD mortality with high added sugar consumption
The researchers found that the average percentage of daily calories from added sugar increased from 15.7% in 1988-94 to 16.8% in 1999-2004. This decreased to 14.9% in 2005-10.
Researchers found that regular consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, such as soda, increased CVD mortality.
Around 71.4% of adults consumed 10% or more of their daily calories from added sugar, while 10% of adults consumed 25% or more of their daily calories from added sugar.
The research team found that people who consumed between 17-21% of daily calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of CVD mortality, compared with those who consumed around 8% of daily calories from added sugar.
Those who consumed more than 21% of daily calories from added sugar had double the risk of CVD mortality, compared with those who consumed 8% of daily calories from added sugar, while the risk was almost tripled for those who consumed 25% of daily calories from added sugar.
Furthermore, the investigators found that regular consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks - defined as 7 or more servings every week - was linked to increased risk of CVD mortality.
These results remained significant after adjusting for conventional CVD risk factors, including total serum cholesterol and high blood pressure, as well as other factors, such as physical activity levels and body mass index (BMI).
The study authors write:
"Our findings indicate that most US adults consume more added sugar than is recommended for a healthy diet. A higher percentage of calories from added sugar is associated with significantly increased risk of CVD mortality.In addition, regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with elevated CVD mortality."
'Less than 10% of daily calories should be from added sugar'
The investigators note that at present, there is no universally accepted level in which added sugar consumption is considered unhealthy.
The American Heart Association recommend that women should consume no more than 100 calories (6 teaspoons) a day from added sugar, while men should consume no more than 150 calories (9 teaspoons) a day from added sugar.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that less than 10% of a person's total daily calorie intake should be from added sugar, while the US Institute of Medicine state that added sugar should make up no more than 25% of total daily calories.
The researchers say their findings suggest that individuals in the US should consume less than 10% of their daily calories from added sugar - an intake that is in line with recommendations from the American Heart Association and the WHO.
Tips to reduce added sugar intake
The American Heart Association have compiled some tips to help to reduce added sugar intake:
- Purchase sugar-free or low-calorie beverages
- Try cutting back on the amount of sugar personally added to food and drinks, such as pancakes, coffee and tea
- Avoid fruit canned in syrup. Instead, go for fruit canned in water or natural juice
- Add fresh fruit to cereal or oatmeal instead of sugar
- Add spices such as ginger or cinnamon to enhance foods instead of using sugar
- When baking cakes, cut the amount of sugar used by one third to one half
- Try non-nutritive sweeteners- such as aspartame, sucralose or saccharin - in moderation.
Medical News Today recently published an analysis looking at how much sugar is in food.
Written by Honor Whiteman