Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), have revealed that consuming too much sugar can greatly increase the risk of heart failure.

In fact, a previous study conducted by researchers at Emory University School of Medicine and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that people who consume high levels of added sugar, such as in processed foods and beverages, are much more likely to have higher heart disease risk factors.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, says that just one molecule of glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate (G6P) can lead to improper function of the heart.

G6P builds up when people consume too much sugar and starch and causes severe stress to the heart.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 5 million people suffer from heart failure in the U.S. each year. Approximately half of people diagnosed with the condition die within a year of diagnosis and there are over half a million new cases of heart failure in the country every year.

Researchers reported at the American Heart Association’s 50th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, that the increase in sugar consumption has led to more diabetes and heart disease over the past decade.

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Consuming too much sugar can lead to a number of cardiovascular problems.
Heinrich Taegtmeyer, M.D., D.Phil., principal investigator and professor of cardiology at the UTHealth Medical School, said:

“Treatment is difficult. Physicians can give diuretics to control the fluid, and beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors to lower the stress on the heart and allow it to pump more economically. But we still have these terrible statistics and no new treatment for the past 20 years.”

The research team, led by Taegtmeyer, first conducted preclinical trials in animals and then moved on to test tissue taken from patients who had a piece of their heart muscle removed so that they could place a a left ventricle assist device.

Results of the trials revealed that G6P can cause significant damage to the heart.

Taegtmeyer said that when people have high blood pressure, or other diseases, the heart is already stressed, so when it takes in excess glucose its condition only worsens and it can become severely injured.

There are drugs, such as rapamycin (an immunosuppressant) and metformin (a diabetes medication) that can block the signaling of G6P and improve cardiac power.

A study published in Aging Cell showed that mice suffering from age-related heart disease experienced a significant improvement in cardiac function following a three-month treatment with the FDA-approved drug rapamycin.

Taegtmeyer added: “These drugs have a potential for treatment and this has now cleared a path to future studies with patients.”

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Written by Joseph Nordqvist