Eating too much ‘free sugar' has 45 negative health effects, study finds

The study found links between added sugar and 45 negative health outcomes, including cancer and heart disease. To reduce your intake, the article recommends avoiding sugary drinks, eating more whole fruits and vegetables, and reading food labels.

Eating too much ‘free sugar' has 45 negative health effects, study finds

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According to a recent study, there are at least 45 reasons to reduce sugar intake.

Numerous studies have shown that excessive sugar intake can cause health problems. It is recommended to reduce sugar intake to 10%.

According to Wednesday's study in The BMJ, researchers from China and the United States believed that detailed policies to restrict sugar should be developed based on the quality of the evidence.


A large review of 73 metaanalyses, which included 8,601 studies, found that high sugar intake was associated with 45 adverse health outcomes including diabetes, gout and obesity.

The authors defined free sugars as sugars that are added to foods during processing. They can be packaged as sweeteners or table sugar. This does not include sugars that naturally occur in dairy products or structurally whole fruits, vegetables.

"The study provides a useful overview of current science regarding sugar consumption and our health... and confirms the likelihood that eating too many sugars is likely to cause problems," said Dr. Maya Adam (director of Health Media Innovation, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine). Adam was not involved in the research.

"Studies such as this are useful in advising patients that seemingly minor changes, like cutting out sugary drinks and sugar-sweetened beverages can have a markedly and positive improvement in health," said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, a George Washington University emergency physician and professor of public health. She wasn't part of the study.

There was moderate evidence that participants who consumed the most sugar-sweetened beverages were more likely to be overweight than those who had the least.

"As a nutrition scientist who was a member of both the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines advisory committees and the 2020 US Dietary Guidelines advisory committees, I can confirm that the US's intake of dietary sugar is more than twice the recommended level (less than 10% of the total daily caloric intake). And while the direct effect of sugar offers very limited, if any, nutritional advantages, it further replaces foods with such benefits," Linda Van Horn, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg school of medicine, via email Van Horn was not involved in the research.

Sugar and diseases: The link between them

The study's authors stated that there is limited evidence of a link between sugar free and cancer. They also cautioned that further research is needed. The study suggests that the findings could be explained by sugar's known effects on weight. Obesity has been linked to various types of cancers. The same applies to cardiovascular disease.

Brooke Aggarwal, a behavioral scientist, told CNN that sugar can increase inflammation and cause stress in the body. This can lead to higher blood pressure. Aggarwal is an assistant professor in medical sciences in cardiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. He was not involved in the study.

High-quality processed foods with lots of sugar can increase inflammation. This is a risk factor for depression.

Adam stated to CNN that whole food carbohydrates are more difficult to convert into simple sugars and that some of them, such as fiber, can't even be broken down at all. Whole, unprocessed grains are not responsible for the same blood sugar spikes as simple sugars. Insulin spikes can cause blood sugar spikes that can lead to insulin destabilization and may eventually lead to health problems.

Reduce your intake

These findings, along with the existing guidance from American Institute for Cancer Research, World Health Organization and World Cancer Research Fund, suggest that people limit their free sugar intake to less then 25 grams per day, or 6 teaspoons. This is the amount of sugar found in two half-cups of chocolate chip cookies, 16 ounces fruit punch, and 1 1/2 tablespoons honey. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a doughnut contains between 15 and 30 grams of sugar.

They also suggest reducing sugar-sweetened beverages consumption to one serving per week (roughly 200-355 milliliters). Aggarwal explained via email that this is equivalent to a 12-ounce soda.

The authors believe that a combination of global public health education and policies is needed to change sugar consumption patterns.

There are however some things you can do on your own.

When shopping, be aware of the nutrition labels. Even those on foods that you don't consider sweet like bread, yogurts, cereals, or condiments. Adam stated that these foods often contain a lot of sugar and it adds up.

Instead of drinking sugary drinks, opt for water sweetened by fruit slices. Fresh or frozen fruit can be used as dessert instead of cakes, cookies, or ice cream. Aggarwal stated that baking and cooking at home is one of the best ways reduce sugar intake.

Aggarwal stated that getting enough quality sleep would help reduce the temptation to eat sugary foods when you're tired. You can train your taste buds not to crave as much sugar by gradually cutting back.

Adam stated that "our lives will likely end up being more sweetened if we eat less sugar,"