A bitter sweet find: sugar leads to 83 negative health effects

The research took into account 8,601 studies.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Free sugar.jpg
Free sugar.


A new study reveals some troublesome side effects of consuming too much sugar.  

The research, which took into account 73 meta-analyses including 8,601 studies, found that high consumption of the substance led to substantially higher risks of 83 health outcomes such as heart attack, stroke, cancer, asthma, diabetes, gout, obesity, high blood pressure, tooth decay, depression, and early death.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal The BMJ.

“Significant harmful associations between dietary sugar consumption and 18 endocrine/metabolic outcomes, 10 cardiovascular outcomes, seven cancer outcomes, and 10 other outcomes (neuropsychiatric, dental, hepatic, osteal, and allergic) were detected,” noted the authors in their research.

“Moderate quality evidence suggested that the highest versus lowest dietary sugar consumption was associated with increased body weight (sugar-sweetened beverages) (class IV evidence) and ectopic fatty accumulation (added sugars) (class IV evidence).”

The authors focused on free sugars, in other words, those added during the processing of foods, packaged as table sugar and other sweeteners, and those naturally occurring in food products such as syrups and honey, amongst others.

Reducing sugar intake

They recommended a significant reduction in sugar intake.

“Reducing the consumption of free sugars or added sugars to below 25 g/day (approximately 6 teaspoons/day) and limiting the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to less than one serving/week (approximately 200-355 mL/week) are recommended to reduce the adverse effect of sugars on health,” they wrote in the study.

Their warnings about sugar are not entirely new. They have been echoed before in other studies and by other health professionals. But all too often, they fall on deaf ears.

“As a nutrition researcher who served on both the 2010 and 2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees, I can confirm that intake of dietary sugar in the U.S. is more than twice the recommended amount (less than 10% of total daily caloric intake) and while the direct impact of sugar itself offers minimal if any, nutritional benefits, it further replaces foods that do,” told CNN Linda Van Horn, professor emeritus of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Reading nutritional labels and watching out for hidden sugars is a significant first step in reducing sugar intake and replacing sugary drinks with water sweetened with fruit slices.

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