(StatePoint) With sugar consumption continuing to be linked to different ailments, some surprising new research indicates people can include added sugars as part of a balanced diet without increasing their risk of heart disease or weight gain.
The key is moderation and maintaining other healthy habits.
Consuming fructose from added sugars at levels found in the average American diet does not lead to weight gain or increased risk for heart disease when part of a weight-stable diet, according to new research presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2010 conference.
This marks the first time researchers have measured the effects of added sugars consumption on body weight, total cholesterol and triglycerides levels, when consumed at levels typical of the general population.
“These findings demonstrate that added sugars, whether from table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, do not promote weight gain or increase total cholesterol, triglycerides or LDL cholesterol when coupled with a balanced diet,” said Dr. James Rippe, a cardiologist who is director of the Lifestyle Medicine Initiative at Orlando Regional Healthcare and the study’s chief investigator.
Interestingly, the new study was accepted for presentation at the AHA conference even though it conflicts with the association’s recommendations. The AHA recommends men and women consume no more than 100 and 150 calories of added sugars daily (about 38 grams), though more than 90 percent of Americans consume more — with an average consumption rate of 345 calories of added sugar daily.
Rippe cautions that the new findings shouldn’t lead people to increase consumption of the sweet stuff and that moderation is still the key.
“Although this study is not license to over-indulge, it does inform us we can enjoy sugar in moderation as long as we are following a healthy lifestyle. That’s an important take-away for people like moms who may want to use added sweeteners to make healthy foods more attractive to their children.”
Table sugar (sucrose) is the leading source of added sugar in the American diet, followed by high fructose corn syrup (corn sugar). Sugar and high fructose corn syrup contain nearly the same one-to-one ratio of two simple sugars: fructose and glucose.
In the double-blind study, which was supported by an unrestricted grant from the Corn Refiners Association, researchers followed 64 overweight and obese people who were placed on a weight-stable diet for 10 weeks. The diet incorporated sucrose-sweetened or high fructose corn syrup-sweetened low-fat milk, at 10 percent or 20 percent of total calories. These fructose consumption levels were two- to four-times greater than AHA recommendations.
After 10 weeks, there was no change in body weight in the group. There also were no changes in total cholesterol, triglycerides or “bad” LDL cholesterol. The participants also didn’t experience elevated levels of a protein that indicates increased heart disease risk and had no changes in their levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
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