Big sweet gulp: Heart disease in a can

UC DAVIS (US) — Adults who consume high levels of sugar—particularly fructose or high fructose corn syrup—have significantly elevated levels of several risk factors for heart disease, a new study shows.

The results suggest U.S. dietary guidelines for sugar may be lax and should be reconsidered, the researchers say. Their findings are scheduled for publication in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“While there is evidence that people who consume large amounts of sugar are more likely to have heart disease or diabetes, it has been controversial as to whether high-sugar diets may actually promote these diseases,” said Kimber Stanhope, the study’s senior author and a research scientist at the University of California, Davis.

“Our new findings demonstrate that several factors associated with an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease were increased in individuals who consumed 25 percent of their calories as fructose or high fructose corn syrup,” Stanhope adds.

In this study, the researchers examined 48 adult participants between the ages of 18 and 40 years. For five weeks before the study, subjects were asked to limit daily consumption of sugar-containing beverages to one 8-ounce serving of fruit juice. The participants were then divided into three groups, each group consuming 25 percent of their daily calories as fructose, high fructose corn syrup, or glucose.

The researchers found that within two weeks, study participants consuming fructose or high fructose corn syrup exhibited increased bloodstream concentrations of three known risk factors for heart disease: LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and a protein known as apolipoprotein-B, which can lead to plaque buildup in arteries.

These same risk factors for heart disease did not increase in participants who consumed glucose. (In this study, the researchers were looking at the participants consuming glucose as a control group, against which results from the other two groups could be compared.)

Stanhope notes the American Heart Association recommends that people consume only five percent of their daily calories as added sugar, but the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggest an upper limit of 25 percent or less.

In addition to UC Davis researchers, scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Human Nutrition Research Center, Vanderbilt University, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. in Tokyo, and Denka Seiken Co. in Tokyo contributed to the work. Funding for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health.

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