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Added Sugar in Diet Tied to Death Risk

Sugar can be 'hidden' in savory foods as well as desserts and soda, experts note
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors have long thought extra sugar in a person's diet is harmful to heart health because it promotes chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

But the added sugar Americans consume as part of their daily diet can -- on its own, regardless of other health problems -- more than double the risk of death from heart disease, a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found.

The average American diet contains enough added sugar to increase the risk of heart-related death by nearly 20 percent, the researchers said.

And the risk of death from heart disease is more than doubled for the 10 percent of Americans who receive a quarter of their daily calories from sugar that's been added to food, said CDC researcher and study lead author Quanhe Yang.

The findings were published online Feb. 3 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

"They're seeing that people who are moderately heavy consumers of added sugar have a heightened risk of dying of [heart] disease, and the heaviest users have the highest risk of dying of [heart] disease," said Laura Schmidt, who wrote an accompanying journal commentary. "When you start seeing a dose-response reaction like they found, that is powerful evidence that consuming added sugar puts people at risk of death from cardiovascular disease."

Food manufacturers add sugar to many different products to improve flavor, appearance or texture. People who eat those varied products might not be aware that they have increased their total sugar intake, because the sugar is hidden inside the food, the researchers said.

About 37 percent of the added sugar in Americans' diets comes from sugar-sweetened beverages, the authors said. One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar (about 140 calories), Yang said -- enough to put the person into a higher-risk category if they drink soda daily.

"I could be eating a 2,000-calorie diet, not overeating, not overweight. But if I just drink a can of soda a day, I increase my risk of dying from [heart] disease by one-third," said Schmidt, a professor of health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. "I think people would assume one can of soda a day would not have that kind of impact over the course of their lives."

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