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Continued: America's sweet tooth is linked to heart disease and death

  • Article by: KAREN KAPLAN , Los Angeles Times
  • Last update: February 16, 2014 - 8:18 PM
Compared with the people in the lowest group, those in the highest group were more than twice as likely to die during the follow-up period, according to the study. But they weren’t the only ones who put their health in jeopardy. People in the second-highest group of sugar consumption saw their risk of death due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) rise by 7 percent; those in the middle group saw their risk rise 18 percent, and those in the fourth-highest group had 38 percent greater odds of CVD death compared with the people in the baseline group.

All figures were adjusted for age, gender, race, income, smoking and drinking history, exercise habits, body mass index and diet quality, among other factors. The death risk increases were considered too large to be chance. In general, people who consumed more added sugar also had more fat and cholesterol in their diets, and they ate less meat, vegetables and grains, according to the study.

Soda and other types of sugar-sweetened beverages accounted for 37.1 percent of the sweeteners in U.S. diets. Those were followed by grain-based desserts (13.7 percent), fruit drinks (8.9 percent), dairy desserts (6.1 percent) and candy (5.8 percent).

In the past, experts focused on obesity and cavities as the main health problems from sugars. But recent studies have linked the sweeteners directly to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver cirrhosis and dementia, Laura Schmidt, a professor of health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, wrote in a commentary with the study.

Another complication is that there is no specific national guideline for sugar consumption. The Institute of Medicine recommends sugar be less than 25 percent of total calories, the World Health Organization recommends less than 10 percent, while the American Heart Association suggests limiting sugar to less than 150 calories a day for men and less than 100 calories a day for women.

Dr. Jonathan Purnell, a professor at Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cardiovascular Institute, said while the research doesn’t prove “sugar can cause you to die of a heart attack,” it adds to a growing body of circumstantial evidence suggesting that limiting sugar intake can lead to healthier, longer lives.

The new study, Schmidt wrote, “holds potential to turn the political tide by demonstrating that added sugar is not as benign as once promised.”

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.


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