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New Unsweetened Truths About Sugar

By Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH

In this research commentary, SugarScientist team member Laura Schmidt, PhD, outlines the shift in thinking among scientists regarding added sugar and its link to premature death from heart disease.

INTRO: We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in research on the health effects of sugar, one fueled by extremely high rates of added sugar overconsumption in the American public. By “added sugar overconsumption,” we refer to a total daily consumption of sugars added to products during manufacturing (ie, not naturally occurring sugars, as in fresh fruit) in excess of dietary limits recommended by expert panels. Past concerns revolved around obesity and dental caries as the main health hazards. Overconsumption of added sugars has long been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).1 However, under the old paradigm, it was assumed to be a marker for unhealthy diet or obesity.2 The new paradigm views sugar overconsumption as an independent risk factor in CVD as well as many other chronic diseases, including diabetes mellitus, liver cirrhosis, and dementia—all linked to metabolic perturbations involving dyslipidemia, hypertension, and insulin resistance.3 The new paradigm hypothesizes that sugar has adverse health effects above any purported role as “empty calories” promoting obesity. Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick.

READ THE FULL COMMENTARY: JAMA Internal Medicine

Added sugar

Any sugar added in preparation of foods, either at the table, in the kitchen or in the processing plant. This may include sucrose, high fructose corn syrup and others.

SugarScience Glossary

Heart disease

A broad term for a group of chronic diseases of the heart, these diseases include problems with blood supply to heart muscle, problems with heart valves and the electrical system of the heart. Another term you will see used to mean the same thing is cardiovascular disease.

SugarScience Glossary

Diabetes mellitus

Usually shortened to just diabetes. Sometimes called sugar diabetes. Look at Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes for more information

SugarScience Glossary

Chronic diseases

Diseases which last months or years, do not go away on their own, and are usually managed and not cured. For the first time in history diseases that are not caused by infection (non-communicable diseases) are causing more injury and death worldwide than are those caused by infection. In the US this has been true for decades but the rest of the world is catching up as our diet and lifestyle are becoming more common globally.

SugarScience Glossary

Sugars

Sugars are chemicals made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen found which taste sweet and are found in food. They are an important part of what we eat and drink and of our bodies. On this site, sugar is used to mean simple sugars (monosaccharides) like fructose or glucose, and disaccharides like table sugar (sucrose). Sucrose is two simple sugars stuck together for example (see Table sugar). Sugars are a type of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are energy sources for our bodies Sugars enter the blood stream very quickly after being eaten.

SugarScience Glossary

Dementia

A group of chronic diseases of the brain that cause, memory loss, behavior changes, and abnormal thinking and reasoning.

SugarScience Glossary

Fat

One of the three major groups of nutrients we eat. Much of this website is related to problems associated with too much fat storage in the body. Each gram of fat produces 9 calories of energy if burned by the body as fuel. Fat can be stored in many places in the body. We generally think of fat as under the skin (subcutaneous), but the fat that may be most damaging to us is the fat stored in the liver and around the organs of the abdomen (intrahepatic and visceral or abdominal or intra-abdominal)

SugarScience Glossary

Cirrhosis

An abnormal condition in which healthy liver is replaced by scar tissue. In cirrhosis, the liver no longer works well to digest food or protect us from toxins. Eventually, liver failure will occur when most normal parts of the liver have been replaced by scar tissue. The only treatment is liver transplant.

SugarScience Glossary

Liver

The largest internal organ. It weighs about three to four pounds and is located under the lower edge of the ribs on the right side. It helps us digest our food and remove toxins from our blood. "Hepat" in a word means liver, so an "hepato-toxin" is a liver poison or something that can cause damage to the liver

SugarScience Glossary

Insulin

Insulin is a messenger released from the pancreas after eating, which shunts energy (glucose or triglycerides) from the blood into fat cells for storage. Insulin is given to some people with diabetes to lower the blood glucose; it leaves the blood and enters the fat cell for storage.

SugarScience Glossary

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