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Added Sugars and Heart Disease: A New Study

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The American Journal of Medicine (JAMA) recently published the results of a study relating the effect of added sugars in our diet and dyslipidemia. Dyslipidemia is a known risk factor for developing heart disease and is a combination of three lipid measures: triglyceride levels, LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Dyslipidemia occurs when a person has higher than normal levels of triglycerides and LDL and lower HDL levels. This study was the first study to specifically examine the effect that added sugars in our diet have on these lipid levels.

Most foods have a certain amount of naturally occurring sugars. However, as the name implies, added sugars are not naturally occurring. Added sugars are sweeteners which have been added by the food manufacturers and producers of processed or prepared foods.

This practice did not begin until the mid-1800s and consumption of added sugars has been on the rise ever since. In 1977-78, added sugars comprised 10.6 percent of the calories consumed each day. Today, the numbers of added sugars consumed daily has risen to almost 16 percent, or one-sixth of our total daily dietary intake! Added sugars also account for 30.7 percent of the total amount of carbohydrates that you consume daily. These added sugars are low-calorie nutrients and have little nutrient value.

The most common added sugars used today include: refined beet sugar, refined cane sugar and fructose (high-fructose corn syrup). Understanding the role added sugars play in the development of heart disease is important because you can control the amount of added sugar you consume.

In order to examine how added sugars impact limpid levels, researchers worked with study participants who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2006. The NHANES is an ongoing survey in the United States which is specifically designed to gather information on dietary habits and impacts on our health. All study participations were over the age of 18 years of age. The NHANES 1999-2006 survey consisted of 8,495 persons.

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EmpowHER Guest

It is well-known that high consumption of concentrated sweets can cause an increase in triglyceride levels. However, it is important to note that sweeteners from all sources should be consumed in moderation. High fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, honey, and other caloric sweeteners all have the same metabolic effects on the body. I agree with the comment above - instead of focusing on single food ingredients, consider your diet as a whole.
Lisa Cimperman MS, RD, LD

April 29, 2010 - 10:49am

As a registered dietitian, I want to point out that the writer has confused fructose with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS, just like cane and beet sugar, contains about half fructose and half glucose. The body is unable to distinguish the original source once the fructose and glucose are absorbed into the body. It is impossible to implicate a single ingredient of food as the cause of any disease. All sweeteners should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Rather than worrying about specific foods, people should focus on eating a diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains along with moderate amounts of lean meats, low fat dairy and healthy fats in appropriate portions and getting adequate physical activity to balance calorie intake. Neva Cochran, MS, RD, LD

April 28, 2010 - 2:10pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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