The study is part of a new focus in medical
researches on excess sugar as a risk for heart disease.
Vasanti Malik, a nutritionist at Harvard's
T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and the study author points out
that the added sugar
in sodas, fruit drinks, sweet teas and
energy drinks can put you at risk of a heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.
The report highlights that having one or two
servings a day of sugar-sweetened beverages has been connected to a 35% greater
risk of heart attack or fatal heart disease
, a 16%
increased risk of stroke and a 26% increased risk for type
"Reducing the consumption of these
drinks, it's not going to solve the heart disease epidemic, but it's one step
that can have a measurable impact. It's not the only thing that needs to be
done, but it's a very important thing," Malik said.
Marina Chaparro, a dietitian at Joe DiMaggio
Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, noted that so far, all studies have
been focused on low fat and reducing fat and cholesterol.
"The dietary guidelines that are about
to come out 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," said Chaparro, who is also a spokeswoman for the Academy of
Nutrition and Dietetics.
Researchers reveal that sugar-added drinks
account for about one-half of added sugars in the U.S. diet. One can of regular
soda carries approximately 35 grams of sugar, nearly nine teaspoons of sugar.
Private soft drink companies most often use
either table sugar (granulated white sugar) or high-fructose corn syrup to
sweeten beverages. Researchers say that both sugar sources contain fructose and
glucose, and these sugars can harm the heart.
Malik says that glucose increases insulin
levels, which can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a
major risk factor for heart disease.
Malik adds that fructose also damages the
heart, but in more insidious ways. Its presence can force the liver to release
triglycerides (an ester derived from glycerol and three fatty acids) and 'bad'
low-density lipoprotein into the bloodstream. Too much fructose causes fatty liver disease
Excess consumption of fructose
can also lead to too much uric acid in the
blood, which is connected to a greater risk of gout. Inflammation also has been
associated with heart disease, Malik said.
Finally, fructose can promote the
accumulation of belly fat, another risk factor for heart disease, she said.
Meanwhile, William Dermody Jr., vice
president of policy for the American Beverage Association, opines that the
study unfairly knocks sodas and sweet drinks, and it doesn't prove sweetened
beverages uniquely cause illness.
However, researchers warn that liquid sugars
in sweetened beverages should be a health concern. This is because liquid
sugars enter the bloodstream very quickly.
As of now, the researchers advise people to
reduce the amount of added sugar in their diet.
The United States Department of Agriculture
has proposed a new Nutrition Facts label that will reveal the amount of sugar
added to a product and the amount that occurs naturally in the food.
For example, a container of yogurt might
reveal that 9 grams of sugar from the milk and 10 grams of sugar have been
added to make the product even sweeter.
Until the proposal comes to effect, consumers
can avoid added sugars with the help of the current nutrition facts label -
which does reveal details of total sugars - and by skimming the list of
ingredients for dextrose, sucrose, sugar, syrup or high-fructose corn syrup.
1. Vasanti Malik, ScD, nutrition research
scientist, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston; Marina Chaparro,
RDN, CDE, MPH, clinical dietitian and certified diabetes educator, Joe DiMaggio
Children's Hospital, Hollywood, Fla.; William Dermody Jr., vice president,
policy, American Beverage Association; Sept. 28, 2015, Journal of the American
College of Cardiology