A Swedish research group investigated the association between sugar intake and risk of coronary events and found that a higher (>15 E%) sucrose intake compared to the lowest group (<5 E%) significantly increased the risk of coronary events.
Coronary heart diseases (CHD), such as myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke are some of the leading causes of death worldwide. One risk factor is unhealthy diet and extensive sugar consumption might have an effect on the development of CHD. Sugar may reduce the intake of essential nutrients and excessive sugar intake might lead to obesity, a common risk factor in chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, sugar might have a direct effect on fat metabolism and inflammation. However, the recommendation on the maximum amount of energy from sugars is not consistent: WHO suggests <10%, while the US Institute of Medicine says <25%.
An article was published recently in the British Journal on Nutrition examining the association between sucrose (the most commonly added sugar) consumption and CHD risk. Researchers used data from the Malmö Diet and Cancer Cohort, where patients were recruited between 1991 and 1993 and followed until 2013. 26190 patients were included and 2493 cases of CHD occurred during the average 17 years of follow-up. Participants with a higher sucrose consumption were more often smokers, less educated and were less likely to be alcohol consumers. An intake of >15 E% (percent of consumed energy) in sugars compared to a consumption of <5 E% was associated with a 48% increased coronary event risk. After adjusting for other risk factors (smoking, physical activity, waist circumference, etc.) the difference between the highest (>15 E%) and lowest (<5 E%) sugar intake groups remained significant, 37%. However, the risk did not differ significantly between the highest and the middle group or between the middle and the lowest group. In addition, none of the sugar-containing food sources were significantly associated with a higher coronary event risk.
In conclusion, it seems that sucrose intake >15 E% increases the risk of coronary events. Further studies are needed to identify other factors (for example, genetic factors), that may determine the susceptibility to coronary events even in moderate sugar consumption.
Written By: Dr. Fanni R. Eros