UNNECESSARY sugar intake is linked with larger fat deposits around the heart and in the abdomen, which are risky for health, according to the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
Excess sugar consumption is a worldwide problem. The six countries with the highest sales of sugary drinks per capita are Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, the US, and Saudi Arabia. While the demand for sugar is expected to increase in Asia, Africa, and Russia.
This observational study examined both sugar-sweetened beverages (such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks) and sugar added to foods and beverages for sweetness (for example when cooking or in processed foods).
The researchers analysed the association between long-term sugar consumption and fat stores around the heart and other organs.
Data were obtained from Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA), an ongoing cohort study in the US that includes centres in Alabama, California, Illinois, and Minnesota.
Food and beverage intakes were measured three times over a 20-year period (1985 to 2005). After 25 years (in 2010) computed tomography (CT) scans of the chest and abdomen were performed to measure fat volumes in the abdomen and around the heart.
The researchers found that sugar intake over the 20-year period was related to fat volumes later in life.
Dr. Lyn Steffen of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health said higher intakes of both sugar-sweetened beverages and added sugar were related to greater fat stores around organs in a stepwise fashion. And that fat deposits are connected with higher risks of heart disease and diabetes.
She advised reducing the amount of added sugar consumed each day by having water instead of sugary drinks and choose healthier snacks over foods rich in added sugar like cakes. Read food labels to check the amount of added sugar and look for ingredients like syrups, glucose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose.
On top of an individual efforts, Dr Steffen urged governments, food manufacturers, restaurants, schools, and workplaces to have a role to play in increasing consumer awareness of the sugar content in foods and beverages and offering healthier alternatives.