As if consumers needed even more reason to be wary of their sugar intake, new research published this week in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology has given it to them.
Sugar consumption, according to the study, is linked with larger fat deposits around the heart and in the abdomen, which can cause other associated health risks.
“When we consume too much sugar, the excess is converted to fat and stored,” said one of the study authors, Ph.D. student So Yun Yi. “This fat tissue located around the heart and in the abdomen releases chemicals into the body which can be harmful to health.”
The observational study, which examined consumption of both sugary beverages like soft drinks and juices as well as sugary and sugar-added foods, utilized data from Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA), an ongoing cohort study in the U.S. The study included more than 3,000 healthy participants aged 18 to 30.
According to a press release published by the European Society of Cardiology, “Food and beverage intakes were measured three times over a 20-year period (1985 to 2005). After 25 years (in 2010) computed tomography (CT) scans of the chest and abdomen were performed to measure fat volumes in the abdomen and around the heart.”
The results showed higher intake of sugar – whether via food or beverage – were linked to higher levels of fat storage around organs.
“Our findings provide more evidence that consuming too much added sugar and sugary drinks is related to a higher amount of fat tissue,” said another study author, Lyn Steffen, Ph.D., University of Minnesota School of Public Health, in the press release. “And, we know that fat deposits are connected with higher risks of heart disease and diabetes.”
Steffan also advised reducing the amount of sugar one consumes each day, a trend being seen throughout the food and beverage industry, from beverages to bakery items and seemingly everything in between. Steffan also cautioned consumers to look out for sugary ingredients such as syrups, glucose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose – something brands are already seeing as consumers push for healthier sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, allulose and erythritol instead.
Even as more consumers seek healthier sweetness from their food and drink, the authors did note that excess sugar consumption continues to be an issue worldwide; they identified Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia as the countries with the highest per capita sales of sugary drinks and also noted “the demand for sugar is expected to increase in Asia, Africa and Russia.”