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Just one sugary soda can raise heart disease risk

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Study finds a little sugar can increase heart disease risk

A new study published Monday reveals that drinking only a single can of sugary soda per day could boost your risk of heart disease.

Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the study also found that eating too much added sugar increased the risk of death from heart disease, which continues to be the top killer of men and women in the United States today.

For the study, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to search for trends on added sugar consumption between 1988 and 2010, along with death rates from heart disease over a 14 year period.

In addition to finding that most Americans consume too much sugar, the researchers also found that drinking just one can of sugary soda per day raised the risk of heart disease by over 30 percent.

However, sugary drinks like soda were not the only culprit. The researchers also found that consuming too much added sugar in foods, both prepared and processed, increased the risk for cardiovascular disease.

So what is too much added sugar?

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According to the study, if more than 15% of your daily caloric intake comes from sugar, that’s too much. Specifically, if you take in a total of 2000 calories per day, and roughly 300 of those calories come from sugar (approximately 18 teaspoons per day), you may be at higher risk for heart disease.

Perhaps 18 teaspoons per day sounds like a lot of sugar to you, but according to a 2009 study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, with teenagers consuming a whopping 34 teaspoons of sugar per day.

In a commentary on the new study, which was also published Monday in JAMA, Laura A. Schmidt, a professor at the University of California’s school of medicine, said that 77 percent of all packaged foods have sugar added to them, ranging from breads to ketchup and salad dressing.

She pointed out that even foods that don’t taste sweet can have sugar in them, which makes it difficult for people to know exactly how much sugar they’re actually consuming.

Reading food labels and keeping track of your daily sugar consumption can help. So can cutting back on the amount of sugar you add to your diet or otherwise use to prepare food.

Study author Quanhe Yang, a senior scientist with the CDC who works in the agency’s division of heart disease and stroke prevention, said that reducing your risk of heart disease or dying from it can be as simple as limiting the amount of added sugar you consume.

In other words, cutting back on your sugar intake could save your life.

SOURCE: JAMA Internal Medicine, Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults, published online February 03, 2014 (doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13563).