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Added sugar = added cardio risk

Sodium has been hogging the spotlight lately: On Tuesday the Institute of Medicine issued its report on strategies to reduce American sodium consumption, and a week earlier, General Mills announced it would cut the sodium content in many of its products by 20 percent by 2015.

Now it's sugar's turn. A study in yesterday's Journal of the American Medical Association found an association between eating lots of sugar and blood-lipid profiles linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. That finding, the authors note, supports the notion that dietary guidelines should be adjusted to cut back on the amount of sugar Americans consume.

Researchers looked at data for 6,113 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who had reported what they'd eaten in an earlier 24-hour period. Those who consumed the most "added sugar" -- sweeteners that are added to processed and packaged foods and that contribute nothing but calories -- had higher triglyceride levels and higher ratios of triglycerides to HDL-C, or good cholesterol than those who consumed less. Both measures are related to heart-disease risk.

The study points out that current dietary guidelines issued by various public health organizations are all over the board when it comes to telling us how sweet a tooth we can have:

The 2005 US Dietary Guidelines do not provide a quantified intake guideline for added sugars, suggesting only that consumers "choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugars or caloric sweeteners." The new Food Guide Pyramid (the federal nutrition education tool designed to translate the US Dietary Guidelines into kinds and amounts of food to eat each day) includes calories consumed as added sugars as part of "discretionary calories," i.e., those not required to meet nutrient needs. Most discretionary calorie allowances are small (between 100 and 300 calories), especially for individuals who are not physically active--a level of added sugars substantially lower than that currently consumed by adults in the United States. New guidelines from the American Heart Association encourage adults to limit added sugars more than any of the previously issued guidelines. Women are advised to limit their added sugars to fewer than 100 calories daily and men to fewer than 150 calories daily (approximately 5 % of total energy intake).

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, last revised in 2005, are under revision for 2010 right now. Many eyes will be on the new recommendations regarding sugar.

Even if you never add a spoonful of sugar to your food, it's hard to avoid consuming sweeteners -- which include the ubiquitous high-fructose corn syrup -- if you eat any processed, packaged or prepared food at all.

Let's try keeping track for a day. Look for these terms on the ingredient list. You might be surprised at how often they pop up.

Send your sweet tweets our way on Twitter: Find me and the other Local Living writers at @wposthome/local-living. And keep track of my "Me Minus 10" effort to lose 10 pounds before I turn 50 at

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  April 22, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cardiovascular Health , General Health , Health Policy , Nutrition and Fitness  
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Next: Is that right? Buying KFC buckets fights breast cancer?


More money wasted on a study that produces obvious results. Who approves these things?

Posted by: Axel2 | April 22, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

There's a regulation of the amount of sugar in the blood and conversion of the excess to fat (triglycerides).

Posted by: cmckeonjr | April 23, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

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