Elevated sugar intake has been correlated with deadly visceral fat, which accumulates in the abdomen and compromises vital functions.
The discovery was made by a team of experts led by Caroline Fox, vice-president and head of Genetics and Pharmacogenomics at Merck Research Laboratories, in Boston, Massachusetts.
An analysis was conducted based on medical data aggregated during the Framingham Heart Study, whose role was to assess the most important contributing factors for heart disease, atherosclerosis and stroke.
More precisely, the focus was on 1,003 subjects, with the average age of 45. Each of them had undergone CAT scans in order to measure their individual abdominal fat distribution (in terms of volume and weight), and had also filled in questionnaires related to their daily eating habits.
Based on their consumption of sugary beverages, researchers divided them into 4 groups. Approximately a third had never had such drinks, while a fifth consumed them rarely (less frequently than on a weekly basis).
More than a third (35%) turned to them regularly (at least once a week, but not on a daily basis), while more than 1 in 10 (13%) were addicted to them (having them at least once per day).
By also looking into data collected 6 years following the initial examination, researchers determined the prevalence of visceral fat among these subjects, while comparing it against each individual’s consumption of drinks rich in sugar.
Visceral fat, also known as intra-abdominal fat, is considered extremely harmful, because it disrupts hormonal activity (such as insulin production) and wraps around several internal organs, including the liver, the intestines and the pancreas.
As a result, it puts people at a higher risk of developing glucose intolerance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as various types of malignancies (especially colon and breast cancer).
Researchers determined that there was a clear correlation between high sugar intake and excessive organ fat. The most obvious link was identified among those who had consumed sugar-riddled beverages on a daily basis, which suggests that risks grew the more people indulged in this type of unhealthy diet.
In the case of these sugar addicts, the volume of abdominal fat soared by around 852 cubic centimeters, the equivalent of 1.8 pounds gained in just 6 years, solely around vital organs.
On the other hand, study authors didn’t identify a statistically significant increment in abdominal fat among those who had preferred diet drinks instead.
Based on these findings, scientists believe that people should develop greater awareness regarding the potentially irreversible harm caused by sweetened beverages, and switch to water and milk consumption instead.
The recently revealed 2016 Dietary Guidelines for Americans developed by the Department of Agriculture, alongside the Department of Health and Human Services, specifically recommend that people should limit sugar consumption to just 10% of their daily calorie intake.
This is the equivalent of approximately 50 grams or 10 teaspoons of sugar per day, which initially may appear a lot, but just one 12-ounce can of sweetened soda can account for around 80% of that amount.
In fact, as the American Heart Association estimates, soft drinks are the main reason why sugar consumption is so elevated across the United States, having been estimated at around 20 teaspoons per day, on average.
Unless these dietary patterns are changed, Americans will continue to be exceedingly vulnerable to various health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
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