Cardiovascular risks compounded by added sugars

February 1, 2011

Daily consumption of calorie-loaded soft drinks and snack foods that contain high fructose corn syrup or refined beet or cane sugar now account for one-fifth of adolescents' daily sources of energy, putting this age group at increased risk for cardiovascular disease as adults, according to a new study.

Daily consumption of calorie-loaded soft drinks and snack foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup or refined beet or cane sugar (sucrose) now account for one-fifth of adolescents' daily sources of energy, putting this age group at increased risk for cardiovascular disease as adults, according to a study published in Circulation.

The study examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 to 2004 for 2,157 US adolescents aged 12 to 18 years. Dietary data from a 24-hour recall survey for all participants were merged with data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient and MyPyramid Equivalents databases to determine grams of added sugars consumed in each food and beverage and the percentage of total energy obtained from the added sugars.

Participants were examined for biologic indicators associated with cardiovascular disease: lipids, glucose metabolism, anthropometric measures, blood pressure, and body mass index. Added covariates included age, sex, income, race/ethnicity, educational level of parent/guardian, and level of physical activity.

Researchers reported a 9% increase in dyslipidemia among adolescents who consumed the highest amount of added sugars (30% or more of total energy) compared with the lowest consumers (less than 10% of total energy), regardless of body size, and increased insulin resistance among overweight or obese adolescents who consumed more added sugars-metabolic effects known to be cardiovascular risk factors.

Researchers support recommendations from the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association to limit daily intake of added sugars as a strategy to prevent heart disease and reduce other chronic disease risks.

Welsh JA, Sharma A, Cunningham SA, Vos MB. Consumption of added sugars and indicators of cardiovascular disease risk among US adolescents. Circulation. 2011;123(3):249-257