New research published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine shows that eating added sugar in foods such as soft drinks, cereals, and cakes does more than just make us pack on the pounds, it can also increase our risk of dying from heart disease — and by a significant margin.
In a nutshell, here's what the research says: If you get more than 25% of your daily calories from foods and drinks containing added sugar, you have triple the risk of dying from heart disease. Even moderate intake is nasty; 10 to 25% daily caloric consumption increases cardiovascular risk by 30%. This means that even one sugar-sweetened drink a day is enough to increase the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
According to the World Health Organization, we should limit added sugar to about 10% of our total daily calories. But the study, which was led by Quanhe Yang from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, revealed that 71.4% of U.S. adults get more than the recommended intake.
To reach their conclusions, the researchers examined data from the mortality-tracking National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) which was conducted in stages between 1988 and 2010. The data was pulled from more than 43,000 individual cases. The data was then matched against heart disease mortality over a typical period of about 14 years, during which a total of 831 cardiovascular-related deaths were recorded.
"Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick," noted Laura A. Schmidt, a professor of health policy at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine, in an accompanying commentary. Indeed, as the researchers are right to admit, and in their own words, "We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in research on the health effects of sugar, one fueled by extremely high rates of added sugar overconsumption in the American public." No doubt, sugar is increasingly being seen as a toxic substance.
Added sugars were defined as "all sugars used in processed or prepared foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, candy, ready-to-eat cereals, and yeast breads, but not naturally occurring sugar, such as in fruits and fruit juices." It's a list of sugars that includes regular sugar, corn syrups, honey, and maple syrup. In terms of composition, the primary culprits include sports drinks (37%), deserts like cake a puddings (14%), fruit drinks (9%), dairy desserts (6%), and candy (6%).
A can of Coke, for example, contains 35 grams of sugar and 140 calories.