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The relationship between fructose-containing sugars and cardiovascular health

Recent research appears to suggest that fructose-containing sugars are closely associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

A number of these studies are based on sugar-sweetened beverages, which is the largest source of fructose-containing sugars in the United States and Canada. These studies report that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with an increased risk of hypertension, weight gain, and diabetes. Based on these findings, many public health agencies and governmental organizations have pushed towards limiting the amount of sugars that can be added to beverages and foods. Interestingly, however, these adverse observations have not been reported directly for fructose-containing sugars themselves.

In a recently published study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies to determine the role of total or added fructose-containing sugars on heart health. Data from 10 prospective cohort studies were analyzed, which included 624,128 unique individuals, 11,856 CVD incidence cases, and 12,224 CVD mortality cases.

The researchers found that total sugars, sucrose, and fructose had no association with the incidence of CVD. Furthermore, they found that different types of sugars showed a different association with heart disease mortality. For instance, added sugars had no association with CVD mortality. In contrast, a higher intake of total sugar and fructose was associated with an increased risk of CVD mortality. Lastly, there was also an association between sucrose and decreased CVD mortality. As noted by the authors in their study, it is important to recognize that a large proportion of the data that was analyzed came from observational studies. Therefore, more thorough work is necessary to fully understand the relationship between sugars and heart health.

Unlike previous studies, the current findings reported no association between total sugar, fructose, and sucrose with CVD incidence. Moreover, the associations between fructose-containing sugars and the risk of CVD mortality were not entirely consistent with previous research on sugar-sweetened beverages, suggesting that these beverages may not be an accurate model for studying the effects of fructose-containing sugars and heart health. Therefore, additional studies are needed to directly test the effects of fructose-containing sugars on heart health.

In addition to this research, the authors also propose investigating the potential relationship between the source of sugar and heart health. Together, this research will allow scientists to better understand how sugar affects cardiovascular health.


Written by Haisam Shah


Reference: Khan, T. A., Tayyiba, M., Agarwal, A., Mejia, S. B., de Souza, R. J., Wolever, T. M., … & Sievenpiper, J. L. (2019, December). Relation of total sugars, sucrose, fructose, and added sugars with the risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 94, No. 12, pp. 2399-2414). Elsevier.

Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay


Haisam Shah BSc
Haisam Shah BSc
Haisam is a first-year Masters student in the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto. His research involves understanding the role of cardiac fibroblasts in the progressive development of cardiac fibrosis following a myocardial infarction. He graduated from McGill University with a Bachelors of Science – Honors in Pharmacology, where he had the opportunity of investigating potential combination therapies for Glioblastoma Multiforme.


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