Eating Too Much ‘Free Sugar’ Has 45 Negative Health Effects, Study Finds

Eating Too Much ‘Free Sugar’ Has 45 Negative Health Effects, Study Finds

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ATLANTA — There are at least 45 good reasons to cut back on added sugar, according to a new study.

A great deal of research has shown the negative health effects of excessive sugar consumption, which has informed recommendations to limit “free” or added sugar consumption to less than 10% of daily calorie intake. a person.

Yet researchers in China and the United States have argued that before developing detailed sugar restriction policies, “the quality of existing evidence needs to be thoroughly assessed,” according to the report. study published on Wednesday in the magazine The BMJ.

In a large review of 73 meta-analyses – which included 8,601 studies – high added sugar intake was associated with significantly higher risks of 45 negative health outcomes, including diabetes, gout, obesity, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, asthma, tooth decay, depression and early death.

Free sugars – the type of sugar the authors focused on – are those added during food processing; packaged as table sugar and other sweeteners; and naturally present in syrups, honey, fruit juices, vegetable juices, purees, pastes and similar products in which the cellular structure of the food has been broken down, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. This category does not include sugars naturally found in dairy products or structurally whole fruits and vegetables.

The study “provides useful insight into the current state of science on sugar consumption and our health…and confirms that eating too much sugar is likely to cause problems,” said Dr. Maya Adam, director of Health Media Innovation and Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Adam did not participate in the study.

“Studies like this are helpful in informing patients that seemingly small changes, such as cutting out excess sugar like sugary drinks, can have a marked and positive improvement in health,” said Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst, emergency physician and professor of public health at George Washington University, who was not involved in the study.

Moderate-quality evidence suggests that participants with the highest consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages had higher body weight than those with the lowest consumption.

“As a nutrition researcher who served on the 2010 and 2020 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees, I can confirm that dietary sugar intake in the US is more than double the recommended amount (less than 10% of total daily calorie intake) and while the direct impact of sugar itself provides minimal, if any, nutritional benefits, it is more of a substitute for foods that do,” said Linda Van Horn, professor emeritus of preventive medicine. to Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, via email Van Horn was not involved in the study.

The link between sugar and disease

Evidence for a link between free sugar and cancer has been limited and controversial, and needs more research, the study authors said. But the finding, according to the study, could be explained by sugar’s known effects on weight: high sugar intake has been linked to obesity, which is a strong risk factor for various cancers. The same goes for cardiovascular disease.

“Intake of added sugar can promote inflammation in the body, which can cause stress on the heart and blood vessels, which can lead to increased blood pressure,” said behavioral scientist Brooke Aggarwal. . told CNN in February. Aggarwal, assistant professor of medical sciences in the division of cardiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, was not involved in the study.

Highly processed foods, which can be high in free sugar, have been found to increase inflammation, a risk factor for depression.

“Whole food carbs take longer to break down into simple sugars, and some of them — fiber — can’t be broken down at all,” Adam told CNN in February. “This means that whole, intact grains don’t cause the same blood sugar spikes that we experience when we eat simple sugars. Blood sugar spikes trigger insulin spikes, which can destabilize our blood sugar and…be the cause underlying long-term health issues.”

Reduce your consumption

The results – in combination with existing guidelines from the World Health Organization, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research – suggest that people should limit their intake of free sugar to less than 25 grams, or about 6 teaspoons, per day. There’s that much sugar in 2 ½ chocolate chip cookies, 16 ounces of fruit punch, and about 1 ½ tablespoons of honey. A donut contains about 15 to 30 grams of sugar, depending on the Cleveland Clinic.

The authors also recommend reducing the consumption of sugary drinks to less than one serving (about 200 to 355 milliliters) per week. That’s the equivalent of up to 12 ounces of soda, Aggarwal said via email.

To change sugar consumption habits, the authors believe that “a combination of education and widespread public health policies around the world is urgently needed.”

But there are a few changes you can start making yourself.

Be aware of what you’re putting in your body by reading nutrition labels when you shop, even those on foods you may not consider sweet, such as bread, breakfast cereals, yogurts or condiments. These foods typically contain a lot of added sugar, and it adds up, Adam said.

Opt for sugar water with sliced ​​fruit instead of sugary drinks and fresh or frozen fruit for dessert instead of cakes, cookies or ice cream. Cooking and cooking at home more often is one of the best ways to cut down on sugar intake, Aggarwal said.

Getting enough good-quality sleep on a regular basis would also help “because we tend to choose high-sugar foods when we’re tired,” Aggarwal said. Cutting back gradually can help you train your taste buds to consume less sugar.

“Our lives will probably end up being sweeter with less sugar in our diets,” Adam said.

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