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Sugar intake may double risk of dying from heart disease

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    A study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine says diets high in sugar are linked with increased risks for fatal heart disease. The study says it doesn't take much extra sugar to boost the risk: anything more than the equivalent of a 20-ounce Mountain Dew soda a day. Above, a vendor sells cotton candy at a Seattle baseball game.
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High sugar consumption might double the chance of dying from heart disease, according to a study that adds to evidence that high levels of the sweetener in processed foods and drink are bad for a person’s health.

People whose sugar intake is about a quarter or more of their total daily calories had twice the risk of dying from heart disease than those whose intake was 7 percent, according to the research today in JAMA Internal Medicine. For those whose intake of added sugar was about 19 percent, their risk of dying from heart disease was about 38 percent higher.

Monday’s study is the first to link on a national level the amount of sugar American adults eat to their risk of dying from heart disease after taking into account weight, age, health, exercise and diet, said lead study author Quanhe Yang, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research has already linked sugar consumption to diabetes, weight gain and obesity.

"Too much sugar can make you fat; it can also make you sick, sick from diseases like cardiovascular disease, which is the No. 1 killer in America," said Laura Schmidt, a school of medicine professor at the University of Cali­for­nia, San Francisco. "Small amounts of sugar are fine. It’s consuming massive amounts of sugar that’s a growing problem in America."

There is no specific national guideline for sugar consumption. The Institute of Medicine recommends sugar be less than 25 percent of total calories, the World Health Organization recommends less than 10 percent, while the American Heart Association suggests limiting sugar to less than 150 calories a day for men and less than 100 calories a day for women, the authors wrote.

"The majority of us are consuming more added sugar than the recommendations," Yang said.

About 37 percent of added sugar in U.S. diets comes from sugar-sweetened beverages, while the rest comes from grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts and candy, the authors said. Sugar from fresh fruits and vegetables isn’t considered added sugar.

Better food labels would help people identify their sugar intake, said Schmidt, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

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Nicole Ostrow, Bloomberg News

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