Researchers have identified a statistically significant link between dietary added sugars and blood lipid levels in U.S. adults.

A total of 6,113 respondents to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2006 were grouped by intake of added sugars (caloric sweeteners used by the food industry as well as consumers themselves as ingredients in processed or prepared foods). The investigators found that an average of 15.8% of calories consumed came from added sugars.

Compared with a reference group of individuals whose total calorie intake consisted of  <5% added sugars, the odds of having low levels of desirable HDL were 50% to more than 300% greater for people with a higher intake (>10% added sugars). More specifically:

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  • For people whose diets consisted of <5% added-sugar calories, adjusted mean HDL level was 58.7 mg/dL.
  • For those with 5% to <10% of added-sugar intake, the adjusted mean HDL level was 57.5 mg/dL.
  • For those with 10% to <17.5% of added-sugar intake, the adjusted mean HDL level was 53.7 mg/dL.
  • For those with 17.5% to <25% of added-sugar intake, adjusted mean HDL level was 51.0 mg/dL.
  • For those with >25% added-sugar intake, adjusted mean HDL level was 47.7 mg/dL.

Not only did HDL cholesterol levels fall in the face of added-sugar intake, triglycerides rose. People who consumed the least added sugar had a mean triglyceride level of 105 mg/dL, compared with 114mg/dL for the highest users.

For women, mean LDL levels were also affected (116 mg/dL for the lowest added-sugar consumers vs. 123 mg/dL for the highest). However, no significant trends related to added-sugar intake and LDL levels were observed among the men (JAMA. 2010;303:1490-1497).