Cholesterol and Added Sugars

Hi, I’m Tiffany.

It is my goal to use my extensive education around the human body and nutrition to empower you to learn about how nutrition is linked to your health – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Changes in atherosclerosis associated with abnormal lipid levels and cardiovascular disease risk is believed to begin in childhood. The study by Lee et al. (2014) was aimed at determining the relationship between high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and added sugar intake. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and one of the risk factors is low HDL.

Sugars are added during the processing and preparation of foods and is also found in many soft drinks, juices, and sodas. Adolescents are the highest consumers of these additives. On average, 17% of adolescents total calorie intake is from these added sugars with the main source coming from sweetened beverages (Lee et al. 2014). These products result in reduced satiety which results in an over consumption of calories and eventual weight gain. HDL has been the strongest indicator of risk for women so this study was done in adolescent females to identify how exposure to these added sugars as an adolescent affect HDL levels as an adult.

The study showed that over a 10 year period of time HDL levels increased in those individuals whose added sugar intake was less than 10% of total energy intake (P=0.045). In addition, those who consumed less added sugar were from a higher-socioeconomic status and Caucasian. Further study is needed to determine if negative health effects are associated with consumption of sugar added to foods or to sugared beverages. Generally, however, high intake of sweetened beverages is associated with a lower quality diet.

Contrary to what Lee et al. (2014) expected in this study, smoking and physical activity did not have a significant effect on HDL. Typically, HDL lowers between 6 and 9 mg/dL so the explanation for this may be the girls didn’t start smoking until later in the study. Similarly, lack of physical activity is associated with low HDL but in this study the association was not significant. It is common for studies in youth physical activity to have low accuracy in recall of physical activity duration and frequency. Adolescents tend to remember only half of the previous weeks’ events and this may explain the lack of statistical significance. There were many strengths of this study and the results were clear – lowering intake of added sugars in adolescent females can significantly reduce cardiovascular risk in adulthood by increasing HDL over time.

This page from WebMD also makes the correlation between sugar consumption and cholesterol level.  Check out the link here:

Lee, A., Binongo, J., Chowdhury, R., Stein, A., Gazmararian, J., Vos, M., Welsh, J. (2014).  Consumption of less than 10% of total energy from added sugars is associated with increasing HDL in females during adolescence:  A longitudinal analysis.  J Am Heart Associ. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.113.000615

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