Death by Too Much Sugar: Study Finds Soda and Cardiovascular Disease Connected


That a diet high in too much sugar isn’t the healthiest choice is not new information. Americans have been slowly getting a grip on their sugar habits in recent years, as declining soda sales indicate. And now there’s more reason to kick processed sugars out of your diet: A new study says our sugar habits are lethal.

According to a study published in the current issue of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, 71.4 percent of U.S. adults “get more than the recommended 10% of their daily calories from added sugars in foods and drinks – and that higher levels of sugar consumption are correlated with higher risk of death due to cardiovascular disease,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

The research team looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, “a large study updated each year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” reports the Times. The team then measured changes in sugar consumption over time and looked at its impact on health. The researchers defined “added sugars” as those used in processed or prepared foods, “such as sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, candy, ready-to-eat cereals, and yeast breads, but not naturally occurring sugar, such as in fruits and fruit juices.”

The number one source for added sugar came from sodas and other sweetened beverages (37.1 percent), grained-based desserts (13.7 percent), fruit drinks (8.9 percent), dairy desserts (6.1 percent) and candy (5.8 percent).

Among the findings, the team discovered that between 1988 and 1994, Americans consumed 15.7 percent of calories from added sugars. Between 1999 and 2004, the number climbed to 16.8 percent, and fell to 14.9 percent between 2005 and 2010.

“In the most recent period studied, about 10 percent of adults got more than 25 percent of their calories in the form of added sugar. Nonsmokers, African Americans and people under the age of 60 ate and drank more added sugar than other adults,” reports the Times.

The team then looked at more than 11,700 people who were part of NHANES study between 1988 and 2006. Over the course of an average 14.6 years, 831 people died from cardiovascular disease. People who consumed the most added sugar—more than 21.3 percent of calories—were more than twice as likely to die during the study’s follow-up period. “But they weren’t the only ones who put their health in jeopardy,” reports the Times. “People in the second-highest group of sugar consumption saw their risk of death due to CVD rise by 7%; those in the middle group saw their risk rise 18%; and those in the fourth-highest group had 38% greater odds of CVD death compared to the people in the baseline group.”

The researchers found that for the most part, people who consumed more sugar, also ate more fat and cholesterol-laden foods, while generally consuming fewer fruits and vegetables, whole grains and meats than people who ate less sugar.

“Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick,” Laura A. Schmidt, a professor of health policy at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine, wrote in a commentary for the study. And, it appears, it can also shorten your life.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: Shelli Brannum