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Burlington event focuses on sugar's impact on cardiovascular disease and health

by Tina Z. on Monday, August 4, 2014

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories or 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and 150 calories of 9 for teaspoons for men. But the reality is people are consuming far more. And sugary drinks are the primary source of added sugars in American diets.

Learn more about the impact of sugar on your health, including sugary drinks, from a local and national expert.

AHA volunteer and University of Vermont Professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences and Pediatrics Rachel Johnson, R.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., will be speaking about sugar’s impact on health at Community Medical School at the UVM College of Medicine in Burlington on October 7th at 6 pm. The event, which takes place in Carpenter Auditorium in the Given Building, is free and open to the public. For more information, call 802-847-2886.

The following are excerpts from Professor Johnson’s February 2013 testimony to the Vermont legislature about sugary drinks and their impact on health.

On average Americans consume 22 teaspoons - or 352 calories - of added sugars a day, the equivalent of about 2, 12 ounce soft drinks. Teens (age 12-17 years) and children (age 6 – 11 years) average 17 percent of their total calorie intake per day from added sugars.

The majority of Americans’ added sugars intake comes from sugar-sweetened beverages – soft drinks, energy drinks, sport drinks and fruit drinks account for about half of our added sugars intake. Regular calorie soft drinks are the NUMBER ONE single source of calories in the US diet.  This means that nutrient-void, empty-calorie soft drinks contribute more calories than any other food and beverage consumed by Americans. 

A systematic literature review published in 2010, concluded that “all lines of evidence consistently support the conclusion that the consumption of SSBs has contributed to the obesity epidemic.” 

There has been a proliferation of public health campaigns designed to limit Americans’ SSB consumption. 

Why do these recent public health interventions solely target SSBs and not foods like candy, cookies, cakes or other sugary treats? One primary reason is because energy consumed as a beverage is believed to be less satiating than energy consumed as solid food, and the body does not adjust for the liquid intake. According to the American Public Health Association’s policy statement on SSBs they “trick” the body’s food regulatory system and add to total energy intake rather than displacing other sources of calories. Another reason, also pointed out in the APHA’s statement, is that “food is essential to life, but SSBs are not. SSBs are a food-like substance that contribute only empty, nutrient void calories to the diet and exacerbate many chronic health problems.” Lastly, unlike food, there are many beverage options that have no-calories or are low in calories. 

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