Sugar may influence fat metabolism and increase cardiovascular risks.
Health experts and organizations advocate that individuals eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while limiting intake of processed foods and meats. Dietary guidelines also advise limiting the intake of saturated and trans fats, especially for patients with heart disease.
In addition to these recommendations, many health organizations urge Americans to limit their intake of sugars, especially added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends that added sugars should account for no more than half of the daily discretionary calorie allowance; however, many Americans do not adhere to these guidelines and consume a high amount of sugary beverages and processed foods.
A new study published by Clinical Science suggests that healthy men had increased levels of fat in the blood and liver after consuming a high-sugar diet.
“Our findings provide new evidence that consuming high amounts of sugar can alter your fat metabolism in ways that could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease,” said researcher Bruce Griffin, PhD.
Included in the study were 2 cohorts of men with high or low levels of liver fat who were fed a high- or low-sugar diet. The aim of the study was to determine whether liver fat at baseline could affect the impact of sugar on cardiovascular health.
The low-sugar diet consisted of no more than 140 calories of sugar per day, while the high-sugar diet included 650 calories of sugar per day, according to the study. The authors said that the amount in the low-sugar diet was close to current dietary guidelines.
After 12 weeks, men with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) who consumed the high-sugar diet were found to have changes in their fat metabolism. The observed changes are known to increase the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes, according to the study.
During fat metabolism, fats are broken down in the blood and used by cells throughout the body. This biochemical process is crucial for overall health, according to the authors.
The authors also discovered that men with low levels of liver fat who consumed the high-sugar diet had increased liver fat. Their fat metabolism was observed to become similar to patients with NAFLD, according to the study.
These results suggest that consuming a high-sugar diet may place individuals at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The authors caution that younger individuals may reach this intake of sugars.
“While most adults don’t consume the high levels of sugar we used in this study, some children and teenagers may reach these levels of sugar intake by over-consuming fizzy drinks and sweets,” Dr Griffin said. “This raises concern for the future health of the younger population, especially in view of the alarmingly high prevalence of NAFLD in children and teenagers, and exponential rise of fatal liver disease in adults.”