Sweets Could Heighten Teen Heart Risk

Fructose consumption by teens may increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Parents have long warned teens to skip sugary sweets such as soda and candy to prevent them from loading up on empty calories. New research has revealed that excess sugar consumption could affect their future health.

Teens that eat too much fructose, or fruit sugar found naturally in fruits and vegetables but also in high fructose corn syrup, a common sweetener in processed foods and soda, appear to be at an added risk of heart disease or diabetes.

"Limit the amount of sugar your teens consume."

Dr. Vanessa Bundy, a pediatric resident at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University and co-author of the study, noted that the nutrition parents provide to their children will contribute either to overall health and development or cardiovascular disease at an early age.

She said that adolescents tend to consume the most fructose, making it important to consider what it may be doing to their bodies in the the short term, and how it could impact their risk of heart disease later.

Researchers analyzed 559 teens between the ages of 14 and 18, assessing their diet history, overall fructose consumption and body fat.

They found that diets high in fructose correlated with higher blood pressure, fasting glucose, insulin resistance and inflammatory factors that contribute to heart disease. Teens with excess belly fat, called visceral adiposity, appeared to be at a higher risk. Investigators noted that large consumers of fructose also tended to have lower levels of good HDL cholesterol.

"Fructose itself is metabolized differently than other sugars and has some byproducts that are believed to be bad for us," Dr. Bundy said. "The overall amount of fructose that is in high fructose corn syrup is not much different than the amount in table sugar but it's believed there's something in the syrup processing that plays a role in the bad byproducts of metabolism."

Researchers didn't suggest dieting, instead advocating for a healthy diet with plenty of physical activity. They also urged parents to ensure they are strong role models in promoting nutrition. Additional research will be needed to examine the link between high fructose consumption and cardiovascular risk.

The study was recently published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 24, 2012
Last Updated:
January 25, 2012