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Research Updates | Cardiovascular disease

Added sugars and cardiovascular disease risk in children

08 / 08 / 17

This AHA statement reviewed and graded the current scientific evidence on the cardiovascular health effects of added sugars on children to identify research gaps and make consumption recommendations. They divided the literature into 5 broad areas: effects on blood pressure, lipids, insulin resistance and diabetes, non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and obesity. They found strong evidence supports the association of added sugars with increased CVD risk in children through increased energy intake, increased adiposity and dyslipidemia, and the association occurred at levels below current consumption levels in US children. (US children 2-19 yrs consume an average of 80g added sugar daily {16.1% Energy}.)

The Committee gave the following recommendations:

  1. From RCT data: children and adolescents limit intake of SSBs to 1 or fewer 8oz (240ml) beverages per week (Class 1 level of evidence: Should consider)
  2. From extrapolation of observational studies (in the absence of dose-assessment studies): children and adolescents consume ≤25g (6 teaspoons) of added sugars per day (Class IIa evidence level: Reasonable to consider). The authors note few US children achieve such levels, so this is an important public health target.
  3. Because there is minimal room for nutrient-free calories in the diets of very young children: avoid added sugars in children less than 2 years of age (Class III evidence level: Maybe considered)

They conclude that although added sugars can most likely be safely consumed in low amounts as part of a healthy diet, little research has been done to establish a threshold for adverse health effects, and this is an important topic for future research.

Added sugars and cardiovascular disease risk on children. A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation 2017 Vol 135(25)