September 30, 2014
Added Sugar and Health Risks

Added Sugar and Health Risks

by Berkeley Wellness  |  

Sugar made lots of headlines earlier this year. The focus was on added sugar, which is mostly sugar added to processed and prepared foods and beverages, but also sugar you add yourself— not the sugar naturally found in fruit and milk, for instance. Added sugars include white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, cane sugar and molasses.

American adults get about 13 percent of their daily calories from added sugar, on average, according to a report from the CDC. Men average 335 calories a day from added sugar, women 239 calories. One-third of these calories come from soft drinks. The only bright spot is that intake is down somewhat from 15 years ago, largely because of reduced consumption of regular soda and other sweetened beverages. The American Heart Association advises that men limit added sugars to 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons) a day, and women to 100 calories (6 teaspoons) a day.

The more sugar, the more diabetes, two large observational studies concluded. One, in the online journal PLOS ONE, examined data on sugar availability and rates of type 2 diabetes from 175 countries over the past decade. It estimated that for every additional 150 calories of added sugar (the amount in a 12-ounce can of soda) available per person per day, the prevalence of diabetes in the population rose by 1 percent, even after adjustments were made for obesity, total calorie intake, physical activity and other variables. Calories from other sources were not independently related to diabetes risk.

The second study, published in the European journal Diabetologia, looked at the increased diabetes risk for an individual, based on data from 16,000 adults from eight European countries. It found that for every 12-ounce can of sugar-sweetened soda a person consumed daily, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increased by 18 percent, after controlling for factors such as body weight and total calorie intake. Juice was not associated with increased risk.

Sugary beverages are linked to more than 180,000 obesity-related deaths worldwide each year, according to a Harvard study presented at the American Heart Association conference in New Orleans in the spring. About 25,000 of those deaths occur in the U.S. Three-quarters of these deaths are caused by diabetes, the rest by cardiovascular disease and some cancers. The researchers used data from the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, which focused on the health and mortality rates of more than 100 countries, and adjusted them for other factors that affect weight.