Teenagers who consume a lot of sugary foods and drinks are more likely to have risk factors for heart disease, according to new research published in Circulation.
The researchers, from Emory University in Atlanta, said that although the link between excessive sugar and carbohydrate consumption and heart disease risk factors had been strongly suggested among adults, little research had investigated whether such a link exists for US adolescents. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest contributor of added sugars in the US diet.
In a study of 2,157 teens who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 to 2004, daily consumption of added sugars averaged 21.4 percent of total energy. They found that the more added sugar teenagers consumed, the more significant was the association with factors known to increase cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.
The authors wrote: “Higher consumption of added sugars among US adolescents is associated with several important CVD risk factors. Though long-term trials to study the effect of reducing the consumption of added sugars are needed, the results of this study suggest that future risk of CVD may be reduced by minimizing consumption of added sugars among adolescents.”
The authors added that consumption of added sugars has increased dramatically among adolescents from about 62 to 84g a day in 1977 to 1978, to 119g in 1999 to 2004 – an increase of 42 to 92 percent.
In particular, the researchers found that teens who consumed the most sugar had lower high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol), and higher low-density lipoprotein levels (LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol). They also found a positive correlation between added sugar consumption and raised triglyceride levels.
Current guidelines from the American Heart Association specify that calories coming from added sugars should be limited to about 100 per day for women and 150 per day for men in order to reduce heart disease risk – about five percent of total daily calorie intake.
Published online January 10, 2011. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.972166
“Consumption of Added Sugars and Indicators of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Among US Adolescents”
Authors: Jean A. Welsh, Andrea Sharma, Solveig A. Cunningham and Miriam B. Vos