Study suggests sugar, cholesterol link

by Jeff Gelski
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DALLAS — Teenagers who consume a lot of added sugars in foods and beverages may have poor cholesterol profiles, which possibly may lead to heart disease in adulthood, according to research reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

“This is the first study to assess the association of added sugars and the indicators of heart disease risk in adolescents,” said Jean Welsh, study author and post-doctoral fellow at Emory University in Atlanta.

The Sugar Association, Washington, responded that the research does not show added sugar intake caused different cholesterol levels, that the methods used to assess the diet may not reflect the person’s usual caloric intake, and that the report further will confuse Americans about the role of all-natural sugar in their diet.

According to the Dallas-based American Heart Association, “added sugars” are any caloric sweeteners added to foods or beverages by the manufacturer during processing or by the consumer. The National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) involved 2,157 youth from the ages of 12 to 18.

Teenagers consuming the highest levels of added sugars, at more than 30% of total energy intake, had lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL). Their level of 49.5 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL) compared with 54 mg/dL as the levels for teenagers who consumed the lowest levels of added sugar.

In “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels, teenagers with higher intake of added sugar had levels of 94.3 mg/dL, which compared with 86.7 mg/dL for teenagers with lower intake of added sugars. Teenagers with higher intake of added sugars had triglyceride levels of 79 mg/dL, which compared with 71.7 mg/dL among teenagers with the lowest intake.

The study included dietary recall from one 24-hour period that researchers merged with sugar content data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPyramid equivalents databases. Researchers estimated cardiovascular risk by added sugar consumption of less than 10% up to more than 30% of daily total energy. Among all levels, the teenagers’ average daily consumption of added sugars was 119 grams, which was 476 calories and accounted for 21.4% of their total energy.

The A.H.A. recommends a specific upper limit for added sugars intake based on the number of calories an individual needs through the day, according to their energy, expenditure, sex and age. For example, somebody with an energy requirement of 1,800 calories per day may have an upper limit of 100 calories from added sugars. Somebody with an energy requirement of 2,200 calories per day may have an upper limit of 150 calories from added sugars.

The Sugar Association disagrees with the A.H.A. sugar intake guidelines.

“While The Sugar Association respects the American Heart Association’s efforts to reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors in adolescents, A.H.A.’s repeated efforts to target added sugars and set unrealistic sugar intake guidelines, without scientific support, only further confuses Americans,” The Sugar Association said. “If we were to follow the intake guidelines suggested by the A.H.A., we wouldn’t even be able to enjoy 1/3 cup of dried cranberries as an afternoon snack or a piece of birthday cake at a party.”

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