Higher sugar intake leads to bigger fat stores around organs

Eating too much sugar may be linked to increased fat deposits around the heart and abdomen, according to new research. (Rawpixel pic)

MINNESOTA: A new US study has found that eating a diet high in sugar could lead to more fat being deposited around the heart and stomach, which can be harmful to health and increase the risk of disease.

Carried out by researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, the new study looked at 3,070 healthy participants aged 18 to 30 who had their food and beverage intakes measured three times over a 20-year period to assess their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks) and sugar added to foods (for example when cooking or in processed foods).

After a 25-year follow-up, the participants also underwent CT scans to measure fat volumes in their abdomen and around the heart.

The findings, published Monday in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), showed that the participants who had a higher intake of both sugar-sweetened beverages and added sugar in their food had bigger fat stores around their organs.

“When we consume too much sugar the excess is converted to fat and stored,” explains study author Ms So Yun Yi.

“This fat tissue located around the heart and in the abdomen releases chemicals into the body which can be harmful to health. Our results support limiting added sugar intake.”

“Our findings provide more evidence that consuming too much added sugar and sugary drinks is related to a higher amount of fat tissue,” added study author Dr Lyn Steffen.

“And, we know that fat deposits are connected with higher risks of heart disease and diabetes.”

To reduce these risks, Dr Steffen advises trying to reduce the amount of sugar we eat each day.

“Have water instead of sugary drinks and choose healthier snacks over foods rich in added sugar like cakes,” she said.

“Read food labels to check the amount of added sugar in what you are buying. Look for ingredients like syrups, glucose, fructose, sucrose and maltose. Being more aware of hidden sugar will help you cut back.”

The researchers point out that excess sugar in the diet is already a global problem.

They note that the six countries with the highest sales of sugary drinks per capita are Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, the US and Saudi Arabia, with levels of sugar consumption expected to increase in Asia, Africa, and Russia.