Sugar's Health Risk

  • We protect our children from alcohol, tobacco and guns, but not Big Soda, which is extremely insidious and cares nothing about the carnage it causes.  (Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, , "U.S. Can't Kick Sugar Habit," by Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post, January 2017)

  • Kids are getting way too much added sugar in their diets, according to a new report from the CDC, and that could raise their risk for obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.  Consuming added sugars has been tied to an increased risk for heart disease among adolescents and cholesterol problems.

    Where are all these added sugars coming from?  The report said 59% of added-sugar calories come from foods and 41% from beverages, but soft drinks are still the single biggest source of added sugar. What's more, the report found most added sugar calories were consumed at home, not at schools which are often the target of nutritional legislation.

    What can be done to reduce sugar intake?  Dr. Wendy Slusser, an associate clinical professor of medicine at the Mattel Children's Hospital at the University of California, Los Angeles, told MSNBC that the new report is an opportunity for families to choose healthier options for their kids at home.

    "Parents think they're doing what they're supposed to when they give their kids sports drinks on a hot day," she said. "If you substitute water for sugary drinks, that's a huge step in the right direction."  She also said sugar intake could be lowered in the home by switching to a healthier cereal brand. A report by the Environmental Working Group pegged the 10 worst cereals in terms of sugar content, HealthPop reported. The group found Kellogg's Honey Smacks contained the most, with nearly 56 percent of the cereal being made of sugar.

    People should "Try to limit processed foods, because that is mostly where it comes from." He said these processed foods include granola bars, cookies, candies, jams, syrups, and even canned fruit," suggested Paul Pestano, a researcher with the EWG.   (Source:  “CDC: Kids consume too much sugar, mostly from processed foods,” Ryan Jaslow reporting, CBS News, Feb. 29, 2012; CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics)

  • Experts have sounded the alarm on sugar, as a source of some diseases.  There is a strong link between the consumption of added sugar and chronic disease.  Example:
    • Rise in fatty-liver disease
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • Metabolic disorders  (A metabolic disorder is when abnormal chemical reactions in your body disrupt this process. When this happens, you might have too much of some substances, or too little of other ones, that you need to stay healthy.
Added sugars are sugars that don’t occur naturally in the foods.  (source:  "Experts have sounded the alarm on sugar," by Barbara Sadick, Chicago Tribune, January 06, 2015, Live Well, http://www.SugarScience.org)
  • Sodas Seriously Damage Heart Health. Harvard researchers report that soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages can seriously damage heart health, a new review finds.

    The added sugar in sodas, fruit drinks, sweet teas and energy drinks affects the body in ways that increase risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke.  Consuming one or two servings a day of sugar-sweetened beverages has been linked to a 35% greater risk of heart attack or fatal heart disease, a 16% increased risk of stroke, and as much as a 26% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

    "Previously, everything focused on low fat, and reducing fat and cholesterol," said Chaparro, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "The dietary guidelines that are about to come out really focus on added sugars, and not as much on cholesterol and total fat. Those are important, but the impact of sugar has become much more profound."

    Sugar-sweetened beverages account for about one-half of added sugars in the U.S. diet, with a can of regular soda containing about 35 grams of sugar, or nearly nine teaspoons.

    Manufacturers most often use either table sugar or high-fructose corn syrup to sweeten beverages, researchers said. Both sugar sources contain roughly equal parts of two simple sugars, fructose and glucose. 
    Researchers believe both fructose and glucose damage the heart. Glucose spikes blood glucose and causes insulin levels to rise, which can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.  Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease.

    Fructose also causes heart health issues, but in more insidious ways. Its presence can prompt the liver to release triglycerides and "bad" LDL cholesterol into the bloodstream.  Too much fructose can lead to fatty liver disease.  Over-consumption of fructose can also lead to too much uric acid in the blood, which is associated with a greater risk of gout, a painful inflammatory arthritis. Inflammation also has been linked to heart disease. 

    Finally, fructose has been shown to promote the accumulation of belly fat, another risk factor for heart disease.  Researchers urge consumers to reduce the amount of added sugar in their diet.  Many foods besides beverages also contain added sugar.  (Source:  Sodas Seriously Damage Heart Health:  Harvard Study, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, September 28, 2015)
Statistics
  • We see that 2/3 of children drink soda on a daily basis.  We recommend that children only drink it once a week, or less.  (Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, 2017)

  • More than one-third of American children and adolescents are obese.  (CDC, 2012)
Additional Resources

  • How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat.  The sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show.

    The internal sugar industry documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that 5 decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.

    The documents show that a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation, known today as the Sugar Association, paid 3 Harvard scientists the equivalent of about $50,000 in today’s dollars to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The studies used in the review were handpicked by the sugar group, and the article, which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat.

    For many decades, health officials encouraged Americans to reduce their fat intake, which led many people to consume low-fat, high-sugar foods that some experts now blame for fueling the obesity crisis.  (Source:  How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat, by Anahad O'Connor, September 12, 2016)

  • Sugar Coated documentary.  If you want to know how sugar politics really works, see this film by Michele Hozer. 
    https://www.facebook.com/SugarCoatedDocu/
    https://www.netflix.com/title/80100595

  • Eating too much added sugar increases the risk of dying with heart disease, by Julie Corliss, Exec. Editor, Harvard Heart Letter, February 6, 2014.   http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/eating-too-much-added-sugar-increases-the-risk-of-dying-with-heart-disease-201402067021

  • The Big FAT Surprise, by Nina Teicholz.  Eat whole fat dairy, whole milk, eggs, butter, meat including meat with fat, bacon, sausage, cheese.  To prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease, avoid sugar, white flour, crackers, refined carbs, hummus. 

  • Soft Drinks and Disease.  Dr. Walter Willett discusses sugary drinks and health risks, Harvard University T.H. Chan, School of Public Health, 2017. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/soft-drinks-and-disease/

  • Sugar:  Its many disguises, by Uma Naidoo, MD, May 18, 2016.  What the experts say about hidden sugar. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sugar-many-disguises-201605189590