Health Team

Added sugar linked to heart disease risk

Posted April 20, 2010 7:30 p.m. EDT
Updated April 23, 2010 5:10 p.m. EDT

A new Emory University study suggests that diets high in added sugars increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

"Just like eating a high-fat diet can increase your levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, eating sugar can also affect those same lipids,” said Dr. Miriam Vos, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Emory University in Atlanta.

Researchers studied U.S. government nutritional data and blood lipid levels in more than 6,000 men and women over a seven year period. The highest consuming group in the study ate an average of 46 teaspoons of sugar a day.

“The lowest consuming group consumed only about on average three teaspoons,” said Jean Welsh, lead author of the study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers found people who added sugar to their foods were more likely to have a high-risk for cardiovascular disease.

"The amount of added sugar, as it increases, the triglycerides go up and the HDL goes down,” Vos said.

High-density lipoprotein or HDL is the good type of cholesterol that protects against a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association.

"HDL levels were 20 percent lower than those who consumed the least amount of sugar,” Welsh said.

The researchers recommend reading nutrition labels to help control the amount of sugar in your diet.

"If we are concerned about heart disease risk then we also need to be paying attention to the amount of caloric sweeteners and added sugars in the foods we eat,” Welsh said.

Researchers said the study did not look at natural sugars found in fruit and fruit juices, only added sugars and caloric sweeteners.