A high sugar diet greatly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease regardless of body weight, according to a new study by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study, which is the biggest one of its kind to date and has included more than 10,000 people followed for up to 14.6 years, concludes that people who drink, for example, one soft drink per day increase their risk of cardiovascular disease by one-third.
Previously, scientists have said that sugar as empty calories could make people overweight and obese, and by doing so increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Now the researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States have concluded that added sugar – which is found in for example sodas, desserts, sweets, fruity drinks – is directly linked to cardiovascular disease, independent of its effect on the body weight.
"We are in the middle of a paradigm shift when it comes to research of the health effects of sugar, something which becomes more important with the extreme over consumption of added sugar among the American public," Laura Schmidt, professor of public health at the University of California, told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
The new paradigm shift, according to Schmidt, is that sugar affects the insulin resistance and blood lipids, but even via inflammation, and causes chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes, fat liver disease, dementia and heart disease.
Schmidt said that it should be easier for the public to avoid added sugar and emphasised that a solution could be to introduce a sugar tax, which some EU countries have done already.
In 2011, Finland introduced extra taxes on sweets, chocolate, cocoa-based products, ice cream and ice lollies. A separate tax on soft drinks was increased and widened to also include other categories of beverages.
In September 2011, Hungary raised a tax on a series of unhealthy products such as certain soft drinks, energy drinks, pre-packed sweetened products, salty snacks and condiments.
In France, a tax on all beverages with added sugar or with artificial sweeteners was introduced in 2012.
Approximately four million people in Europe and 1.5 million people in the EU die of cardiovascular disease each year, according to the European Heart Network (EHN) and the European Society for Cardiology (ESC). The main forms of heart disease are coronary heart disease and stroke.
To reduce the amounts of death from heart diseases, European Union countries agreed to tackle the underlying health determinants behind cardiovascular health in its 2014-2020 health programme.
A key element in fighting cardiovascular disease is to address the underlying health determinants, including bad cholesterol, tobacco use, obesity, diet and physical activity and high blood pressure.
- SVT: A can of soda per day increases risk of heart disease [In Swedish]
- Svenska Dagbladet: Sugar increases cardiovascular disease [In Swedish]