HealthWatch: Sugars May Increase Heart Disease Risk In Teens

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(CBS 5) — Americans consume more sugars and sweeteners than any other nation in the world. New evidence published in Circulation, the Journal of the American Heart Association, suggests on how all that sweet stuff may boost the risk of heart disease in teenagers.

The study found teens who consume lots of added sugars are showing some warning signs of heart disease. And Bay Area experts warn, that may spell big trouble for their future.

Ms. Halle’s media class from Harvest Park Middle School in Pleasanton recently took a tour of CBS 5. Little did they know they would be part of a big story on sugar. CBS 5 asked the kids if they liked sugar and how much they ate. From sugary beverages to candies, most ate plenty of it on a daily basis.

A century ago, on average, teens ate around 7 teaspoons of sugar a day. According to researchers, today’s average teen consumes roughly 30 teaspoons a day.

The study found teens who consume the most added sugars and sweeteners show troubling warning signs of heart disease, even slender teens. They have higher levels of bad cholesterol or LDL and triglycerides; and lower levels of the so-called good cholesterol or HDL. Overweight or obese teens who ate a lot of sugar showed symptoms of insulin resistance.

Experts believe too much sugar early in life may set the stage for full blown heart disease in adulthood.

Dr. Robert Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist with UCSF. He said, “if nothing is done then we can expect an entire generation of cardiac cripples by the time they’re 40.”

Lustig said he sees the problem every day in his clinic. “Children are already showing signs of cardiovascular disease even during puberty,” he explained.

Lustig said a big part of problem is the hidden sugars and sweeteners found in many prepared and processed foods. “Being able to read a food label has become very difficult, and the food industry and the FDA has not made it any easier,” he said.

For example: Pop Tarts. We bought two kinds: the Strawberry low fat variety that is baked with real fruit and we compared that to the S’mores Pop Tarts which look and sound much more like a dessert. The lowfat pop tarts actually had more sugar: 21 grams per pastry compared to the 19 grams per S’mores pastry.

But the confusion didn’t stop here. On the ingredients label, we found nine different references to sugars and sweeteners sprinkled throughout the long list of ingredients, including sugar, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, molasses and honey.

The number one ingredient may be wheat flour on the Pop Tarts. But add all the sugars and sweeteners together and they could be closer to the top.

The Sugar Association questions the methods used in the study. They believe sugar is safe and when consumed in moderation, sugar is a healthy part of a balanced diet.

For a list of some of all the different names of sugar, go to http://www.dietriffic.com/2009/03/26/names-for-sugar/.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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