We try to stay on top of all the latest research on what sugar does to our health. It’s an ever-evolving area and some of the research is super new, requiring more time to prove the strong hypotheses. Below, however, are the latest studies that draw on the highest standards of proof (meta-analysis and systemic reviews, randomised controlled trials and cohort studies).
Sugar increases your risk of type 2 diabetes
A retrospective, worldwide study found small increases in sugar can lead to significant increases in type 2 diabetes rates.
Another study of more than 300,000 people found that consuming just one to two serves of soft drink a day would increase type 2 diabetes risk by 26 per cent.
Sugar increases your risk of heart disease
The same study found an increased risk of cardiovascular disease by 35 per cent. “Limiting intake [of sugar-sweetened beverages] is one simple change that will have a measurable impact on weight control and prevention of cardio- metabolic diseases,” concluded the study’s lead author, Frank Hu, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard.
A follow-up study on 42,000 men also found sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was strongly associated with increased risk of heart disease, as well as adverse changes in lipids (fat), inflammation, and leptin (your hunger hormone).
Sugar increases your risk of stroke
A 60,000-strong study concluded that people who drank one to two sugar-sweetened beverages were 22 per cent more likely to experience a stroke.
Fructose increases your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
A study of 2,000 people found that as little as one can of soft drink a day can significantly increase your risk of non- alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Unsurprisingly, it’s the most common liver disorder in Western countries.
Fructose increases your risk of metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of at least three of ve of the following: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and low “good cholesterol” levels. It’s also highly associated with developing cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.
A meta-analysis of more than 3,000 studies found a strong connection between fructose consumption in industrialised foods and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.
Saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease. Sugar does.
Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal found no evidence linking eating saturated fat with the risk of heart disease.
The study author suggests in an interview about the study that excess sugar and carbohydrates are to blame: “It’s the high carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of dietary guidelines. If anything is driving your LDL in a more adverse way, it’s carbohydrates.“
Sugar ages the body and causes wrinkles
Sugar reacts with amino acid proteins in the body, causing premature ageing.
A study of more than 5,000 people found that sugar consumption is also linked to shorter telomeres. Telomeres protect DNA from deterioration, and shorter telomeres are associated with ageing and mortality.
Sugar increases your risk of cancer
A systematic review conducted by the Department of Medicine, University of Maryland shows consumption of sugar may compromise the body’s natural antioxidant defence mechanisms, thereby increasing the risk of cancer.
A massive analysis of nearly a million patients found 50 per cent diagnosed with pancreatic cancer had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes the previous year. Emerging studies have also linked fructose to breast, gallbladder, bile duct and small intestinal cancers as well as increased chance of metastasis (cancer spreading to other areas of the body).
Sugar makes you fat
A meta-analysis study published in the British Medical Journal shows increased sugar intake is significantly associated with weight gain.