New research links high sugar diets to increased risk of heart disease

Camille Bienvenu
Mon, 04 Dec 2017
New research links high sugar diets to increased risk of heart disease
A new editorial published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) implicates a high sugar diet in the development of heart complications, such as coronary heart disease (CHD), and heart attacks.

For a long time, saturated fat in the diet was thought to cause heart disease. However, many recent associative studies suggest that there is much greater concern with sugar.

Now this new editorial authored by two prominent figures of the low carb movement adds weight to the evidence that sugar can be toxic to the heart at high intakes, even in those without type 2 diabetes.

James DiNicolantonio and James O'Keefe reviewed old and new research highlighting possible ways added sugars negatively impact heart function, and the level of consumption associated with risks of harm.

The data they collected suggest that a diet that contains more than 25 per cent of calories from added sugars triples the risk for cardiovascular mortality, compared to a diet containing less than 10 per cent of calories from added sugars.

Excess sugar in the diet may lead to an increased risk of CHD through chronically raised blood sugars and insulin levels, according to the evidence put forward by DiNicolantonio and Okeefe.

Glucose intolerance, they say, usually comes hand in hand with other heart disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol levels. And hyperinsulinemia, which is often what causes the increase in risk factors, is an independent risk factor for CHD.

Overconsuming sucrose or fructose is thought to be especially harmful to heart function, as these may more readily worsen insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. The degree of insulin resistance has also been linked to the severity of heart attacks.

The authors argue that a reduction in added sugars can improve a number of metabolic defects and problems with insulin, which decreases the risk of developing CHD and other cardiovascular complications.

Overall, this new research suggests that added sugars may drive CHD via insulin resistance, and that those with pre-existing risk factors for heart disease may greatly benefit from lowering their consumption of added sugars.

These findings were published in Open Heart, the BMJ cardiovascular journal.
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