Skip to Content

Sugar Hurts the Heart, Study Finds


Increased sugar consumption isn’t just bad for your waistline, a new study confirms — it also puts you at greater risk for dying from cardiovascular disease.

A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that people who consumed 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8 percent of their calories from added sugar. The risk was more than double for those who consumed 21 percent or more of their calories from added sugar.

Most U.S. adults consume about 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day, according to the study.

The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than six teaspoons or 100 calories a day of sugar, while men should stick to less than 9 teaspoons or 150 calories a day.

“This study is another confirmatory piece in the growing body of science that supports the American Heart Association’s recommendations,” said American Heart Association President Mariell Jessup, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and medical director of Penn’s Heart and Vascular Center.

Added sugars such as those found in sugary beverages, grain-based desserts, candy, ready-to-eat cereals and yeast breads, long have been cited for contributing to obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This study, however, is the first to show that too much added sugar could lead to heart disease and death, according to Rachel Johnson, chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee and professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars in the American diet. They should be limited to 36 ounces or 450 calories a week, Johnson said.

A can of regular soda packs about 35 grams of added sugars, equivalent to 8.75 teaspoons or 140 calories. Reducing or cutting out soda, fruit, sports and energy drinks as well as enhanced waters, sweetened teas and sugary coffee drinks can go a long way toward that goal, Johnson said.

The study says that federal guidelines and regulatory strategies are needed to help consumers control their sugar intake. “We should have added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label so consumers can tell how much added sugars are in the products they are buying,” Johnson said.