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The American Heart Association recommends that you consume only five percent of your calories as added sugar. The most recent AHA sugar guidelines recommend that Americans limit their sugar intake to between 100 and 150 calories per day.
That equates to a maximum of 6 to 9 teaspoons daily, at 16 calories per teaspoon. And that adds up to less than 15% of your calories every day.
On the other hand, the federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 are much more generous when it comes to sugar. The government guidelines suggest an upper limit of 25% of daily calories consumed as added sugar.
Which guideline should an American follow? To address this discrepancy in recommended sugar levels, researchers from the University of California, Davis conducted a study. They examined what happened when young overweight and normal weight adults consumed fructose, high fructose corn syrup or glucose at the government's 25% upper limit.
Their results were published in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The researchers found that adults who consumed high fructose corn syrup for just two weeks as 25% of their daily calorie requirement significantly increased their measures for heart disease risk.
High fructose corn syrup, a major ingredient in most soft drinks and processed sweets, is often accused of being a contributing factor in the great American obesity epidemic, as well as cancer. This research finds the sweetener might also be a suspect in the increased rates of heart disease.
The researchers noted that there is already evidence that people who consume sugar are more likely to have heart disease or diabetes. The controversy revolves around whether high sugar diets may actually promote these diseases, and dietary guidelines are conflicting.
According to the study's senior author, Kimber Stanhope, Ph.D., the findings demonstrate that several factors associated with an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease were increased in individuals consuming 25% of their calories as fructose or high fructose corn syrup. But consumption of glucose did not have the same effect.
In the study, researchers examined 48 adults between the ages of 18 and 40 years. They compared the effects of consuming 25% of one's daily calorie requirement as glucose, fructose or high fructose corn syrup on risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Within two weeks, study participants consuming fructose or high fructose corn syrup, but not glucose, showed increased concentrations of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. They also increased their levels of apolipoprotein-B, a protein which can lead to plaques that cause vascular disease. Apolipoprotein-B has been shown to be a better predictor of cardiac events than LDL cholesterol.
Stanhope said the study results "suggest that consumption of sugar may promote heart disease." He also called for a re-evaluation of The Dietary Guidelines' upper limit of 25% of daily calories consumed as added sugar.