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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 effects of excessive sugar intake on health, which has informed recommendations to limit consumption of “free” or added sugar to less than 10% of daily intake. of a person’s caloric intake.
However, researchers in China and the United States felt that before developing detailed policies for sugar restriction, the “quality of existing evidence needs to be comprehensively evaluated,” according to study published Wednesday in the journal The BMJ.
In a large review of 73 meta-analyses – which included 8,601 studies – high consumption of added sugar was associated with an increased risk of 45 negative health outcomes, including diabetes, gout, obesity , high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, cancer, asthma, tooth decay, depression and early death.
Sugar free — the type of sugar the authors focused on — are those added during the processing of foods; packaged as table sugar and other sweeteners; and occurs naturally in syrups, honey, fruit juice, vegetable juice, purees, pastes and similar products where the cellular structure of the food is broken, according to US Food and Drug Administration. This category does not include sugars that occur naturally in dairy or whole fruits and vegetables with structure.
The study “provides a useful overview of the current state of the 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 was not involved in the study.
“Studies like this are helpful in advising patients that seemingly small changes, such as cutting out excess sugar such as sugar-sweetened beverages, can have marked and positive improvements in health,” said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of public health at George Washington University, who was not involved in the study.
Moderate-quality evidence suggested that participants with the highest consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages had a higher body weight than those with the lowest intake.
“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 twice the recommended amount (less than 10% of total daily caloric intake) and while the direct effect of sugar itself offers few, if any, nutritional benefits, it further replaces the foods that are produced,” said Linda Van Horn, professor emeritus of preventive medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University, via email. Van Horn was not involved in the study.
The connection between sugar and disease
Evidence of a link between free sugar and cancer is limited and controversial, and requires more research, the study authors said. But the finding, according to the study, can be explained by the known effects of sugar on weight: High sugar consumption is associated with obesity, which is a strong risk factor for various cancers . The same goes for cardiovascular disease.
“Added sugar intake can promote inflammation in the body, and this can cause stress on the heart and blood vessels, which can lead to increased blood pressure,” behavioral scientist Brooke Aggarwal told CNN in February. Aggarwal, an assistant professor of medical sciences in the cardiology division at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, was not involved in the study.
Highly processed foods, which can have a lot of free sugar, have been found to increase inflammation, a risk factor for depression.
“Whole food carbohydrates take longer to break down into simple sugars, and one part of them — the fiber — can’t be broken down at all,” Adam told CNN in February. “This means that whole, whole grains don’t cause the same spikes in blood sugar that we experience when we eat simple sugars. Blood sugar spikes trigger insulin spikes, which can weaken our blood glucose and … the main cause of health problems in the long run.”
Reducing your intake
The findings – along with existing guidance from the World Health Organization, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research – suggest that people should limit free sugar intake to less than 25 grams, or about 6 teaspoon, each day. That’s a lot of sugar in 2 ½ chocolate chip cookies, 16 ounces of fruit punch and about 1 ½ tablespoons of honey. A donut has about 15 to 30 grams of sugar, according to Cleveland Clinic.
The authors also recommend reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to less than one serving (about 200 to 355 milliliters) per week. That’s the equivalent of up to a 12-ounce soda, Aggarwal said via email.
To change sugar consumption patterns, the authors think that “a combination of widespread public health education and policies around the world is urgently needed.”
But there are some changes you can start on your own.
Be aware of what you’re putting into your body by reading nutrition labels when shopping — even foods on foods you might not think of as sweet, such as bread, breakfast cereals, yogurt or condiments . These foods usually have a lot of added sugar, and it adds up, Adam says.
Choose water sweetened with fruit slices instead of sugary drinks and have 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 reduce sugar intake, Aggarwal said.
Getting enough good quality sleep on a regular basis can also help “as we tend to choose foods higher in sugar when we’re tired,” says Aggarwal. Cutting back gradually will help you train your taste buds to crave less sugar.
“Our lives tend to be sweeter with less sugar in our diets,” says Adam.