Study: Dietary Added Sugars Pose Heart Attack, Stroke and Diabetes Risk

JAMA report also links dietary added sugars to risk of stroke and diabetes.

ByAnthony Underwood and Lara Naaman via via logo
April 20, 2010, 10:25 PM

April 21, 2010— -- The average American consumes about 156 pounds of added sugar each year per capita, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That's troubling, especially when those statistics are coupled with the results of a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association which says there's a significant correlation between dietary added sugars and an increased risk for diabetes, heart attack and stroke, "Good Morning America's" medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard said this morning on the show.

Published this week, this is the first major study to look at sugar and blood fats. It found that added sugar has adverse effects on the level of blood fats and therefore, on the heart.

Natural vs. Added Sugar

Sugars occur naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables and milk, but manufacturers add extra sugar during processing, to boost the flavor or aid with preservation. Consumers may also add sugar to foods on their own.

American adults eat about 104 grams of sugar per day, but the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 25 grams per day for women and to 37.5 grams a day for men, Savard said.

Savard pointed out that teens were getting more than six times their recommended sugar intake -- or 161 grams per day.

Savard reviewed certain foods that have naturally occurring sugars:

When fruit is dried, though, the sugar becomes more concentrated, so consumers may be tempted to eat more to feel fuller.

Added sugars may lurk in food where they are least expected.

For example, a 16-ounce latte may have about 17 grams of sugar, but a Starbucks Frappucino of the same size has about three times the amount of added sugar.

Fruit smoothies may also contain surprising amounts of sugar. One Odwalla Original Superfood bottled smoothie has about 50 grams of sugar -- the rough equivalent of about the amount of sugar found in five donuts.

Sugars may also be found in another surprising place: sandwiches.

A 6-inch chicken submarine sandwich has have 17 grams of sugar. However, Lunchables, a popular packed school lunch, may have 36 grams -- or twice that of the sandwich.

The sub may have 17 grams of sugar, a Lunchables package may have 36 grams – or twice that of the sandwich.

A typical school lunch -- which could contain a glass of Welch's grape juice and six ounces of vanilla yogurt -- would have 101 grams of sugar, Savard said.

Click HERE for tips on how you can reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet.

To avoid the risk of added sugars, some people turn to artificial sweeteners, but Savard urged caution.

Artificial sweeteners don't add calories, but they do create a craving for more sweets, she noted.

Splenda is about 600 times as sweet as table sugar, Sweet'N Low is about 300 times as sweet and Equal is about 200 times as sweet, she explained.

Consumers are now also being offered agave, a sweetener promoted as natural but which is all fructose, she said. Agave is processed and has calories. This kind of sugar gets packed on as fat in the liver, she added.

Click here to return to the "Good Morning America" Web site.

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