Having a sweet tooth could lead to heart disease and death in middle age

OXFORD, United Kingdom — Chocolate fans may want to look away. A new study finds indulging in sweet treats can mean big trouble for your heart later in life. Researchers from the University of Oxford say sugary drinks and eating too much chocolate increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

It’s no secret consuming sugar can lead to weight gain, which in turn is bad for the heart. The new report adds that gobbling up the confectionaries can increase the risk of death during middle age.

“Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK and poor diet is a major contributor to this,” corresponding author and nutritionist Dr. Carmen Piernas says in a university release.

“The most common dietary guidelines are based on the nutrients found in foods rather than foods themselves and this can be confusing for the public. Our findings help identify specific foods and beverages that are commonly eaten in Britain and that may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.”

Which foods besides chocolate lead to the most trouble?

Researchers examined 116,806 adults in England, Scotland, and Wales between the ages 37 and 73 during the study. The team tracked each patient for up to 15 years. The analysis, appearing in BMC Medicine, discovered two specific diets with a link to premature death in middle aged adults.

The first includes large amounts of chocolate, confectionary, butter, and white bread, with less fresh fruit and vegetables. The second is high in sugary beverages, fruit juice, chocolate, confectionary, table sugar, and preserves. This second diet is also low in butter and high-fat cheese.

Researchers find those eating more chocolate, confectionary, butter, and white bread tend to be male, younger, and from poor backgrounds. They’re also more likely to be smokers, less physically active, obese, or have high blood pressure.

Participants consuming more sugary drinks and preserves had an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and mortality, despite tending to be more physically active. People consuming these products are also less likely to be smokers, obese, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.

Women and obese people are most at risk

Among the participants consuming these diets, women, those under 60, or obese individuals had a highest risk of cardiovascular disease. The volunteers all come from the UK Biobank project. Each person reported their meals and snacks over the previous 24 hours on two to five separate occasions.

Researchers then identified the nutrients and foods each participant consumed. Study authors calculated incidence of cardiovascular disease and mortality using hospital admission and death records from 2017 and 2020, respectively.

“Our research suggests that eating less chocolate, confectionery, butter, low-fiber bread, sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juice, table sugar and preserves could be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease or death during middle-age,” Dr. Piernas concludes.

“This is consistent with previous research which has suggested that eating foods that contain less sugar and fewer calories may be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The findings of this study could be used to create food-based dietary advice that could help people eat more healthily and reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.”

SWNS writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.