Over 6 teaspoons a day linked to 45 health conditions

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Consuming too much natural or added sugar is associated with negative health outcomes. HUIZENG HU/Getty Images
  • Sugar occurs naturally in foods, but can also be added during manufacturing or cooking.
  • Researchers are still working to understand the dangers of excessive sugar consumption.
  • A recent general review found that sugar consumption is associated with several negative health outcomes, including cardiovascular problems and several types of cancer.
  • People can take steps to limit their intake of added sugars and sugary drinks.

Proper nutrition is to satisfy the needs of the body. This involves carefully balancing and not getting too much or too little of any nutrient. Sugar is a dietary component, but consuming too much sugar can contribute to poor health outcomes.

A recent umbrella review Posted in The BMJ found that dietary sugar intake was associated with several adverse health outcomes, including weight gain, gout, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. However, the strength of the evidence varied.

Based on these findings, the review authors suggest that people should work to keep their amount of added sugars to six teaspoons a day or less and consume only one or fewer sugary drinks a week.

Dietary sugar is a broad term for some types of carbohydrates. For example, glucose, fructose and lactose are all types of sugar. Some sugar it occurs naturally in foods such as milk or fruit, so people will get this sugar by consuming these foods.

Added sugar is any sugar that manufacturers or consumers add to foods. Based on this distinction, groups like MyPlate.gov offer recommendations for limiting your intake of added sugars.

The body requires some sugar, so people can’t completely eliminate it from their diet, but the source is essential. Molly Kimball, a registered dietitian and nutrition journalist, who was not involved in the study, explained to Medical News Today:

“Glucose is a primary source of fuel for our body: brain, central nervous system and muscles. Every cell in your body needs glucose to survive… But we don’t need to incorporate added sugars (like sucrose or glucose) [into] our diets, as many foods, such as proteins and carbohydrate-containing foods such as vegetables and whole grains, can be naturally converted into glucose by our bodies.

Researchers are still examining the evidence to make the best possible recommendations for sugar consumption.

This umbrella review included 73 meta-analyses and ultimately over 8,500 articles. The review authors wanted to examine how consuming sugar in the diet affected health outcomes. One specific area of ​​concern was the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, which can be a significant source of added sugars.

The review authors found several harmful associations between sugar consumption and negative health outcomes. Their research included the following highlights:

  • Increased consumption of sugary drinks has been associated with an increase in body weight.
  • Increased consumption of sugary drinks has been associated with a higher risk of gout, increased risk of coronary heart disease, and all-cause mortality.
  • Consuming sugar in the diet has been associated with a higher risk for certain types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and overall cancer mortality.
  • Consumption of sugar in the diet has been associated with several negative cardiovascular outcomes, including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

They also found some other harmful associations between sugar consumption and 45 health conditions, including depression, dental problems and asthma in children.

The researchers noted that the evidence associating sugar consumption with cancer is still limited, and this area warrants further investigation. Additionally, the quality of evidence for the associations found varied.

Dr. Felix Spiegel, a bariatric surgeon at Hermann Memorial in Houston, Texas, who was also not involved in the study, noted MNT extension:

“The results of the reviews are really impressive and convincing. Excessive sugar intake greatly increases metabolic diseases such as diabetes, cancer risk, heart disease, psychological disorders and dental problems.

Based on the study data, the review authors suggest further reducing added sugars and sugary drinks from one’s diet. Eva De Angelis, a health and nutrition writer and licensed dietitian nutritionist, who was not involved in the study, explained these recommendations:

“We are all aware that all health organizations around the world, including the World Health Organization, encourage people to reduce their free/added sugar intake to less than 10% of their total daily energy intake. This roughly translates to about 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of sugar per day for adults and teenagers.

“[T]The researchers recommend a further reduction of sugar intake to less than 25 grams per day or about six teaspoons and no more than 355 mL of sugar-sweetened beverages per week to prevent as many of the identified negative health effects as possible.
Eva DeAngelis

This review had several limitations. First, the researchers acknowledge that there was a risk of some publication bias. Second, the researchers were limited by the same limitations of the studies reviewed and by differences between the studies. For example, studies have used a variety of methods to examine sugar intake, many of which carry a particular risk of bias in data collection. Studies have also measured sugar consumption differently.

The reviewers could not rate the sugar intake in some foods. The authors also note the importance of examining the potential for many confounding factors when interpreting results and conclusions.

Some included analyzes had a conflict of interest due to funding, so their results should be interpreted with caution. Finally, the current reviewers did not examine the competing interests of individual studies from the meta-analyses they reviewed.

People can take steps to limit their consumption of added sugars by seeking appropriate guidance from doctors and other professionals. While individual needs differ, the results of this study suggest that limiting added sugars could help protect against some adverse health outcomes.

Dr. Spiegel offered the following tips for reducing sugar consumption:

“Steps to limit consumption include reading labels and making sure there is no hidden sugar. Also, avoiding packaged foods is very helpful. Eating fruit as a substitute is also very helpful. Meat, fish and poultry should simply be grilled or air-fried without adding any seasoning or glaze. Instead, use lots of natural spices. Drinking mostly water is also helpful. Avoiding sweet alcoholic beverages can help prevent excessive sugar intake.

“Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins will all provide the natural glucose needed to support a healthy body. When you eat packaged foods, read nutrition labels and understand how certain foods add to your daily sugar intake,” further noted Molly Kimball, a registered dietitian, who was not involved in the research.

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