CHENGDU, China — Limiting added sugar to just six teaspoons a day and sticking with one sugary drink a week could improve your health immensely, a new study reveals. Moreover, researchers in China say consuming too much added sugar each day raises the risk of developing 45 different health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and depression.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that added sugars should not make up more than 10 percent of daily energy intake. An international team has now carried out an umbrella review to find out the quality of evidence, potential biases, and validity of all available studies on dietary sugar consumption and health outcomes.
Umbrella reviews look at previous studies on a topic and offer an overall view of all the information available. The investigation included 73 studies from just over 8,600 articles, which covered 83 health outcomes in adults and children.
The studies showed that too much sugar can lead to diabetes, gout, obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. They also revealed that a sugary diet can lead to seven cancer outcomes, including breast, prostate, and pancreatic tumors. What’s more, too much sugar can cause asthma, tooth decay, depression, and even death.
Too much soda could lead to serious health issues
Drinking sugar-sweetened drinks displayed a significant link with an increase in body weight, while adding sugar into what we eat and drink can lead to a rise in liver and muscle fat. Some of the studies offered low quality evidence, making them less reliable. This data indicated that for each additional serving per week of sugar-sweetened drinks there is a four-percent rise in the risk of gout.
Drinking 250ml per day of sugary drinks also had a link to a 17-percent higher risk of coronary heart disease and a four-percent higher risk of death. This low-quality evidence also suggested that every 25 grams per day of fructose has a connection to a 22-percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
Fructose mainly occurs naturally in fruit.
“The umbrella review shows that high dietary sugar consumption, especially intake of sugars that contain fructose, is harmfully associated with large numbers of health outcomes,” says Associate Professor Liangren Liu of the West China Hospital at Sichuan University, according to a statement from SWNS.
“Evidence for the harmful associations between dietary sugar consumption and changes in body weight (sugar-sweetened beverages), ectopic fat accumulation (added sugars), obesity in children (sugar-sweetened beverages), coronary heart disease (sugar-sweetened beverages), and depression (sugar-sweetened beverages) seems to be more reliable than that for other outcomes,” the researcher adds.
“Evidence of the association between dietary sugar consumption and cancer remains limited but warrants further research.”
Health officials urge children to avoid extra sugar
Overall, there was very little reliable evidence showing any beneficial associations between sugar consumption and any health outcomes. The researchers acknowledge that existing evidence is mostly observational and of low quality. They stress that evidence for a link between dietary sugar consumption and cancer remains limited as well. The findings suggest that people should reduce the amount of sugar they add to just six teaspoons a day and stick with just one or fewer sugary drinks a week.
“Nevertheless, they say these findings, combined with WHO, World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research guidance, suggest reducing the consumption of free sugars or added sugars to below 25 g/day (approximately six teaspoons a day) and limiting the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages to less than one serving a week (approximately 200-355 mL/week),” the study authors write in a media release.
“To change sugar consumption patterns, especially for children and adolescents, a combination of widespread public health education and policies worldwide is also urgently needed.”
The study is published in The BMJ.
South West News Service writer Alice Clifford contributed to this report.