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Heart Disease Health Center

High-Sugar Diet Linked to Cholesterol

Added Sugars in Diet Triple Risk of Having Low Level of 'Good' Cholesterol
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WebMD Health News

April 20, 2010 -- The average American eats the equivalent of about 21 teaspoons of added sugar a day -- about 2 1/2 to 3 times more than new heart disease prevention guidelines say they should.

Excess sugar is known to contribute to obesity, diabetes, and other conditions linked to heart disease, and now new research links it to unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

People in the study who ate the most added sugar had the lowest HDL, or good cholesterol, and the highest blood triglyceride levels. People who ate the least sugar had the highest HDL and the lowest triglyceride levels.

Eating large amounts of added sugar more than tripled the risk of having low HDL, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

The study appears in this week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Added Sugar, Empty Calories

Added sugar is defined as any caloric sweetener used in processed or prepared foods. Beyond increasing calories, added sugars have no nutritional value.

In guidelines released late last summer, the American Heart Association recommended limiting added sugar in the diet to no more than 100 calories a day for most women and 150 calories for most men.

That’s about 6 teaspoons of sugar a day for women and 9 teaspoons for men.

To put this in perspective, the average 12-ounce can of regular soda has between 8 and 10 teaspoons of sugar. A breakfast cereal with 16 grams of sugar per serving has about 4 teaspoons.

In the newly published study, daily consumption of added sugars averaged about 360 calories a day, or 16% of total daily calories.

That is an increase of about 6% in just over three decades, researcher Miriam Vos, MD, of Atlanta’s Emory University tells WebMD.

“This is a dramatic increase, but it is not too surprising given the proliferation of processed foods with large amounts of added sugar,” she says.

Vos and colleagues analyzed data on 6,113 adults who participated in the large, ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 to 2006.

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