Bitter Health Effects from Added Sugars

Type 2 diabetes risk was raised in patients who had high added sugar intake

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, as the saying goes — but the truth about sugar’s effect on health may actually be quite bitter.

A new study found that added sugar in the US diet contributed to the rising rate of type 2 diabetes.

“At current levels, added-sugar consumption, and added-fructose consumption in particular, are fueling a worsening epidemic of type 2 diabetes,” said study leader James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, MO, in a press release.

These researchers noted that the average American ate more than a hundred pounds of sugar per year.

Dr. DiNicolantonio and team called for a change in dietary guidelines that would allow for a smaller portion of daily calories to come from added sugar.

In the US, 1 in 11 adults has type 2 diabetes, Dr. DiNicolantonio and colleagues said. This disease is marked by the body’s inability to process insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Obese patients often develop this disease.

These researchers noted several studies that linked added sugar intake to type 2 diabetes.

In one study, researchers prescribed groups of adults diets with equal levels of carbohydrates. However, some patients got 5 percent of their daily calories from added sugars, while others received 18 or 33 percent of their calories from them.

At the end of the six-week study period, the patients who ate more sugar had much higher insulin levels than those eating less added sugar. A high level of insulin can indicate a decreased ability to regulate blood sugar.

Dr. DiNicolantonio and team noted that fructose, which is the “fruit sugar” in high fructose corn syrup and table sugar, is found in whole foods like apples, grapes and even some vegetables. However, most Americans consume fructose in high concentrations as an added sugar in processed foods, they said.

“Even 100% fruit juice (although technically not a sugar-sweetened beverage) provides high concentrations of fructose, removed from its usual biological context (eg, whole fruit),” Dr. DiNicolantonio and colleagues wrote.

These researchers added that drinking juice has been tied to higher body weight and diabetes risk, while eating whole fruits has not.

Although dietary guidelines suggest limits on the percentage of calories that should come from added sugar, Dr. DiNicolantonio and team wrote that those limits need to be even lower.

For instance, the Institute of Medicine says added sugar intake can account for 25 percent of daily calories. The authors of the current study said sugar should account for 5 percent or less.

“Most existing guidelines fall short of this mark at the potential cost of worsening rates of diabetes and related cardiovascular and other consequences,” Dr. DiNicolantonio and team wrote.

These researchers also suggested avoiding processed foods and eating whole foods like fruits and vegetables instead.

This study was published Jan. 29 in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Dr. DiNicolantonio and colleagues disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 27, 2015
Last Updated:
January 29, 2015