A new study suggests the answer is Yes! For years we have been warned of the correlation between added sugar in our daily diet and the risk factors of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). However, very few studies have examined the association of added sugar intake with CVD mortality. A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that consuming even just one 12 oz. serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage a day (equivalent to one can of soda) can increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease by more than a third.

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For the study, led by Quanhe Yang of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers used death data on almost 12,000 adults including 831 who died from heart disease during the 15-year follow-up. Among other factors taken into account were smoking, inactivity, and excess weight. Even so, sugar still presented important health risks.

Participants were divided into five categories based on sugar intake. Adults who got at least 25 percent of their daily calories from added sugar were almost three times more likely to die of heart problems than those who consumed the least – less than 10 percent.

Having a cinnamon roll with your morning coffee, a super-sized sugary soda at lunch and a scoop of ice cream after dinner, says CBS News, would put you in the highest risk category in the study. Sugar calories quickly add up: One teaspoon has about 16 calories; one 12-ounce can of non-diet soda has about 9 teaspoons of sugar or about 140 calories; many cinnamon rolls have about 13 teaspoons of sugar; one scoop of chocolate ice cream has about 5 teaspoons of sugar.

Research shows that most Americans, at least 1 in 10 adults, consume more than the safe amount of added sugar in their daily diets. “If you look at all packaged foods, 77 percent of them have sugar added to them,” said Laura A. Schmidt, professor in the school of medicine at University of California, San Francisco. “For example, it’s added to breads, it’s added to bagels, it’s added to ketchup, it’s added to salad dressing … Foods you think are quite savory tasting have sugar added to them. So it makes it very hard for the consumer to know when they’re getting too much sugar.”

ADDED SUGAR VS. NATURAL SUGAR

Sugars in your diet can be naturally occurring or added. Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars are sugars and syrups put in foods during preparation or processing, or added at the table.

The major sources of added sugars are regular soft drinks, sugars, candy, cakes, cookies, pies and fruit drinks (fruitades and fruit punch); dairy desserts and milk products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sweetened milk); and other grains (cinnamon toast and honey-nut waffles). www.heart.org

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Added sugars are referred to as empty calories due to the fact that they contain zero nutritional value, yet may still lead to extra pounds and obesity. To decipher whether or not a product contains added sugar look for key words on the nutritional label such as those ending in “ose” (maltose or sucrose) or high fructose corn syrup, molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, raw sugar, syrup, honey or fruit juice concentrates. (Click here for more information on Nutritional Labels).

Circumstantial evidence suggests that limiting sugar intake can lead to a healthier, longer life. “Think of your daily calorie needs as a budget,” says the American Heart Association. “You want to “spend” most of your calories on “essentials” to meet your nutrient needs. Use only left over, discretionary calories for “extras” that provide little or no nutritional benefit, such as sugar.”

 

Sources: CBS News, Heart.org, CDC.gov, Fox News, JAMA Internal Medicine