Eating too many sugary drinks, desserts and sweets could increase your risk of having a heart attack, the findings of a large US study suggest.
Consuming the equivalent of a can a day of sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks was associated with an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, JAMA Internal Medicine reports.
Sugar can lead to weight gain, which is bad for your heart.
Experts said people needed to be aware of this risk.
“Helping individuals cut not only their excessive fat intake, but also refined sugar intake, could have major health benefits including lessening obesity and heart attacks”
Prof Naveed Sattar – British Heart Foundation
In the study, which looked at data on sugar consumption among tens of thousands of people in the US as well as death rates from heart-related problems, there was a significant link between the amount of sugar consumed and heart risk.
People who got a quarter of their daily calories from added sugar had more than three times the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than people who consumed far less sugar, found Dr Quanhe Yang and colleagues at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that added sugar should make up less than 10% of total calorie intake. This is about 70g for men and 50g for women.
Most adults and children in the US and the UK eat too much sugar.
Sugars are added to a wide range of foods, such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and some fizzy drinks and juice drinks.
Nutrition labels often tell you how much sugar a food contains – look for the figure for carbohydrates on packs.
There are different ways added sugar might be listed on nutritional labels, including:
- Hydrolysed starch
- Invert sugar
- Corn syrup
Food that is high in sugar will contain more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g, while food that is low in sugar has 5g or less per 100g.
Prof Naveed Sattar from the British Heart Foundation said there could be many reasons why people who eat lots of sugar became unhealthy.
“Of course, sugar per se is not harmful – we need it for the body’s energy needs – but when consumed in excess, it will contribute to weight gain and, in turn, may accelerate heart disease.”
He said: “We have known for years about the dangers of excess saturated fat intake, an observation which led the food industry to replace unhealthy fats with presumed ‘healthier’ sugars in many food products.
“Helping individuals cut not only their excessive fat intake, but also refined sugar intake, could have major health benefits including lessening obesity and heart attacks.
“Ultimately, there needs to be a refocus to develop foods which not only limit saturated fat intake but simultaneously limit refined sugar content.”