Saturday, January 14, 2012

Research Update: Sugar Consumption And Heart Disease

Low to moderate sugar-sweetened beverage consumption impairs glucose and lipid metabolism and promotes inflammation in healthy young men: A randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011; 94:479-85.

Objective: To examine the association between low to moderate sugar consumption and risk factors for coronary heart disease in 29 healthy young men.

Methods:  This investigation was a crossover trial.  What this means is that the 29 men in this study were put through 6 separate 3 week interventions.  During each 3 week intervention, a 600 ml soft drink beverage was consumed daily with varying sugar content.  Here are the soft drink interventions:

Intervention 1- 40 grams of fructose per day (moderate fructose)

Intervention 2- 80 grams of fructose per day (high fructose)

Intervention 3- 40 grams of glucose per day (moderate glucose)

Intervention 4- 80 grams of glucose per day (high glucose)

Intervention 5- 80 grams of sucrose per day (high sucrose)

Intervention 6- dietary advice to strictly limit fructose.

After each intervention a variety of blood tests were taken, including LDL particle size, LDL subclass, fasting glucose and high sensitivity C-reactive protein.

Results: The results of this investigation were fascinating:

1) LDL particle size was significantly reduced after both the high fructose and high sucrose intervention.  The smaller the LDL particle, the more likely it is to promote atherosclerosis, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease.

2) A more atherogenic LDL subclass distribution was seen with all of the fructose interventions.  This means that the LDL particles became more likely to promote heart disease.

3) Fasting glucose and high sensitivity C-reactive protein increased significantly after all interventions.  C-reactive protein is a measure of body wide inflammation and has been associated with a variety of diseases, including heart disease.

Discussion:  This is an amazing paper that shows that even a moderate consumption of sugar has the potential to increase risk of heart disease.  LDL particle size, subclass distribution, fasting glucose and high sensitivity C-reactive protein all changed for the worse when consuming even moderate amounts of sugar consistently for only 3 weeks.  These are powerful markers for risk of heart disease.

Take Home Message: Drinking sugar sweetened beverages like soda is not a good idea.  It has been known for years that they provide nothing but empty calories and promote weight gain.  Now the research is beginning to mount that they can cause disease as well.  Sugar sweetened beverages are the largest contributor of sugar in the American diet.  Giving them up entirely is a good first step to improving your health.

If you work with me privately or have read my book, you know how I feel about sugar.  After trans fat, I believe it is the most harmful thing one can eat.  It is a difficult concept to accept, but at the end of the day, humans were never designed to eat sugar.  Cutting down on it, or better yet, eliminating sugar entirely, will cause far reaching and dramatic positive changes in your life that I guarantee will surprise you.

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