Consumption Of Sugary Drinks May Increase Risk Of Heart Disease

Tim Watt  |  May 22, 2015

According to the Heart Foundation, heart disease, which includes stroke and various cardiovascular illnesses, is the leading cause of death among the American population. There are certain foods that increase one's risk of developing these heart problems. A new study has shown that beverages with large concentrations of high-fructose corn syrup may drastically raise people's chances of developing heart disease.

Heart disease was responsible for the lives of approximately 787,000 people in 2011 alone, according to the Heart Foundation. Adults should work to avoid risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol to lower their chances of developing heart-related conditions. Simple lifestyle changes like exercise and eating healthily can help keep the heart healthy and strong.

A recent study performed by the researchers at the University of California, Davis found that beverages with high-fructose corn syrup can significantly increase one's risk of developing heart disease. The new research is the first to establish a link between the risk of cardiovascular disease and the frequency at which people consume sweetened drinks with high-fructose corn syrup. 

High-fructose corn syrup increases risk factors of heart disease
The study took place over 15 days and included 85 adults between the ages of 18 and 40. Each participant was placed in one of four groups. The volunteers were given sweetened beverages with a certain amount of high-fructose corn syrup, depending on which group they were put in - one group drank sugary beverages that contained the equivalent of 0 percent of their daily calorie intake, another consumed 10 percent, the third imbibed 17.5 percent and the last group drank 25 percent.

To compare the levels of lipoproteins, uric acid and triglycerides - all strongly associated with the development of cardiovascular disease - that were present in the volunteers, the researchers drew blood at the start and end of the experiment. 

The results showed that the more high-fructose corn syrup the participants drank, the higher the number of risk factors that were present in their blood. The 0-percent group  that drank beverages with artificial sweetener was at the lowest risk of heart disease after the study. Meanwhile, the volunteers in the rest of the three groups showed an increased amount of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride in their blood streams at the end of the 15-day period. 

"These findings clearly indicate that humans are acutely sensitive to the harmful effects of excess dietary sugar over a broad range of consumption levels," said Kimber Stanhope, the study's lead author and a research scientist in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Findings show importance of healthy diet
The research also found that the men in the experiment had the largest concentrations of lipids and lipoprotein after consuming high-fructose corn syrup compared to the women. The increase in risk factors was unrelated to weight gain, which was surprising, as when cholesterol levels rise, people's weight usually does as well, noted the researchers. 

Stanhope explained that the study's findings represent how crucial it is to continue conducting similar research that uses controlled dietary experiments to determine how much sugar people can consume before their risk of serious heart diseases increases. If adults know exactly what and how much to eliminate from their diets, they can lower their chances of developing heart issues. 

In addition to reducing the number of sugary drinks, such as soda, that adults consume, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pointed out that maintaining a diet that's low in salt, saturated fats and cholesterol is key to avoiding heart disease. Fresh fruits and vegetables will ensure the heart is receiving the proper nutrients to function well.

However, eating healthily can be challenging for those who have age-related disabilities that inhibit them from preparing meals on their own. Seniors who are unable to cook for themselves or don't have access to healthy foods without full-time assistance should look into nearby assisted living facilities, where nutritious meals are prepared everyday for residents.