Weight gain increases with added sugars intake, data suggests

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Added sugars Body mass index Nutrition

Trends in weight gain have paralleled trends in intake of added sugars, according to a review of 27 years of Minnesota Heart Survey data presented at an American Heart Association (AHA) event.

The AHA’s Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention 2011 Scientific Sessions took place in San Diego, California earlier this month.

The researchers, from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, found that consumption of added sugars increased for men and women in all age groups from 1982 to 2009, according to the survey data, and trends were parallel to increases in body mass index (BMI).

Added sugar intake stabilized from 2000-02 and 2007-09 for both genders. During these periods, average BMI leveled off for women, also in parallel with a leveling off of their added sugar intake. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest contributor of added sugars in the US diet.

Lead author of the study Huifen Wang, a PhD candidate in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, said: “Added sugars consumption increased over 20 years. Although it declined slightly after 2000-02, the consumption of added sugars remained high among the Minnesota residents studied.”

However, men’s BMI continued to increase despite calories from added sugars falling by 10.5 percent in the 2007-09 survey compared to the 2000-02 survey. In the 2007-09 survey, about 15.3 percent of men’s daily calories came from added sugars, according to the data – but this still represents a 37.8 percent increase from 1980-82.

Women consumed 9.9 percent of their total calories from added sugars in 1980-82, which increased to 13.4 percent of total calories in 2007-09.

Across all years, women tended to consume fewer calories from added sugars than men, and younger adults tended to consume more calories from added sugars than older adults.

The Minnesota Heart Survey is a surveillance study of adults ages 25 to 74 living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, and dietary added sugar intake was assessed by a 24-hour recall.

Wang said: “Although other lifestyle factors should be considered as an explanation for the upward trend of BMI, public health efforts should advise limiting added sugar intake."

She added that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s report released last year found that there is not enough evidence to determine whether the relationship between added sugars and BMI is about extra calories, or about sugar consumption in itself.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest contributor of added sugars in the US diet. 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.

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