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Not-So-Sweet News

Studies reinforce health risks of sugary drinks and processed foods.

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A recent batch of studies adds to the mounting data that overindulging in added sugars can really mess with your health.

  • A Canadian review of 155 studies in The BMJ showed that consuming more foods or drinks with added fructose, such as soft drinks, baked goods and certain cereals, may be associated with worsening blood sugar control (a risk factor for developing diabetes). Manufacturers use fructose to sweeten a huge number of foods and drinks on supermarket shelves. Note: The review found that foods with natural fructose, such as fruits and vegetables, do not lead to blood sugar problems.
  • Surveys of more than 2,000 people found that those who drank sugary beverages were more likely to eat fast food, desserts and candy and less likely to place a priority on making healthy dietary choices or cooking their own meals, according to research from the University of Otago in New Zealand. Those with a fondness for sugar-sweetened drinks also appeared to read food labels less often.
  • Added-sugar intake equaling more than 20% of total daily calories is associated with a 30% higher mortality risk from ailments like metabolic diseases, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Limiting added sugars to just 7.5%–10% of daily calories seems to minimize the risk. Sipping sugar-sweetened beverages is particularly life-shortening, the study found.
  • According to research conducted (albeit on mice) at the Yale School of Medicine, too much fructose may impede the production of proteins involved in encouraging the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. These microbes are important players in everything from digestion to immunity to brain health.
Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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