– An innovative study found that only 3 months on a high sugar diet alters fat metabolism so that healthy people increase the risk of heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease is primarily associated with atherosclerosis, a condition that develops when a fatty deposit called plaque builds up in the vessels of the blood vessels and limits blood flow. This can lead to a blood clot blocking the tub, leading to heart attack or stroke. About 92 million adults in the United States have “some form of cardiovascular disease” or live with the secondary effects of cerebral strokes. A team of researchers from the University of Surrey in the UK, describe their findings in the journal Clinical Science, reporting how healthy cohorts had higher levels of fat in their blood and liver after consuming a high-content diet for only three months of sugar. They also found that lipid metabolism in humans has similarities to that of people who have non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that develops when fat invades the liver. “Our results provide new evidence that consuming high amounts of sugars can alter fat metabolism in ways that could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease,” comments Bruce Griffin, professor of nutritional metabolism at the University of Surrey. Estimates suggest that NAFLD affects 30-40% of adults in the United States, and is more common in people who have obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Although NAFLD develops more often in adults, there is evidence to suggest that it affects almost 10% of children in the United States between the ages of 2 and 19. There is also evidence to suggest that NAFLD may increase the risk of heart disease. In the new study, 11 men with NAFLD and 14 healthy men underwent one of two diets, one high in sugar and the other low in content for 12 weeks. Both had the same amount of calories per day, except in the high sugar diet, sugar accounted for 26% of total calories, while in the low sugar diet it represented 6%. The study was designed as a “randomized cross-over”, meaning that each participant followed the first diet and then the other, and that the order in which they followed was randomly assigned. The team wanted to find out if the amount of fat in the liver (steatosis) affected the way sugar consumption affects cardiovascular health. The researchers compared the changes in the various markers of fat metabolism, including triglycerides and blood cholesterol, in the two groups following the two diets.
They found that after 12 weeks on the high-sugar diet, men with NAFLD showed changes in fat metabolism that can be linked to an increased risk of heart disease. In parallel, after the high sugar diet, healthy men – whose livers had previously shown a low level of fat – had higher levels of hepatic fat and their fat metabolism also resembled that of men with NAFLD. Overall it is emphasized that while most adults are unlikely to consume the amount of sugar in the high sugar diet of the study, many children and adolescents can do so because of their high intake of sugary drinks and sweets. This truth is there for all to see, but few parents do anything to curb their children’s access to “junk”, hyper-sweetened and food with very poor nutritional value. For this reason, it is essential to make it clear not to confuse health understood as “being in flesh” with the real health of the old saying “mens sana in corpore sano”.
- edited by Dr. Gianfrancesco Cormaci, PhD, specialist in Clinical Biochemistry.
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