Sweet tooth may prove deadly to cardiovascular systems

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Most Americans consume excess sugar, which may place them at increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD), a study published online Feb. 3 in JAMA Internal Medicine found.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and an accompanying mortality cohort, researchers led by Quanhe Yang, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, looked at more than 11,000 Americans’ sugar consumption over time (between 1988 and 2010) and evaluated its association with the risk of dying from CVD.

The average increase in calories from added sugar grew from 15.7 percent in 1988-1994 to 16.8 percent between 1999-2004. The average calories decreased to 14.9 percent from 2005-2010. During an average follow-up of 14.6 years, there were 831 CVD deaths.  

After adjusting for demographic, behavioral and clinical variables, the researchers compared mortality risk among participants who consumed 10 percent to 24.9 percent (HR 1.30) or 25 percent or more calories from added sugar (HR 2.75) to participants who consumed less than 10 percent of calories from added sugar (HR 1). Risk was about the same across different subgroups, except among non-Hispanic blacks. The authors hypothesized the difference could be due to this group’s lower susceptibility to some effects of sugar.

Participants who received more than 10 percent or more than 25 percent of calories from added sugar tended to be younger; non-Hispanic blacks; non-smokers; were less physically active; and had lower levels of total cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, American Heart Association healthy diet score and use of antihypertensives. They also consumed more sugar-sweetened beverages and had a higher prevalence of CVD in their family.

Based on their findings, the authors wrote that their “results support current recommendations to limit the intake of calories from added sugars in U.S. diets.”