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Scientists found a new tool to measure sugar consumption: Sugar and heart risks

Scientists found a new tool to measure sugar consumption. Researchers finally were able to trap the carbon from dietary sugar so it could be used as a measure of long-term sugar intake by looking at the protein in a hair or blood sample. Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks just found a new tool to measure sugar consumption. So many foods have hidden sugar in them that you can't taste...that the effects build up in you.

Scientists found a new tool to measure sugar consumption: Sugar and heart risks.
Anne Hart, photography. Mural on store wall, midtown Sacramento, November 2013.

The researchers identified a new tool that can dramatically improve the notoriously inaccurate surveys of what and how much an individual eats and drinks. Their research is published in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, according to a June 18, 2013 IAB news release, "Scientists find new tool to measure sugar consumption."

Conventional wisdom says that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda and fruit juice is a significant contributor to obesity and chronic disease risk, but the science surrounding this issue is inconclusive. Part of the problem is that in a typical diet survey few people accurately and consistently recall what they consumed. The problem becomes exaggerated when people underreport foods they know are less healthy for them, like sugars.

Researchers were looking for a measure of long-term sugar intake from a hair or blood sample

“We were looking for an objective biomarker that could accurately measure long-term sugar intake from a single blood or hair sample” said Diane O’Brien, in the news release, "Scientists find new tool to measure sugar consumption." O'Brien is the project leader and biologist with the UAF Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the Institute of Arctic Biology.

The biomarker O’Brien and her CANHR research group pilot-tested was the ratio of two different carbon atoms (heavy carbon 13 and light carbon 12) which are incorporated into plants during photosynthesis. The ratio, called an isotopic signature, is distinct in corn and sugar cane, which are the sources of nearly all of the sugars found in sugar-sweetened beverages.

“We used the isotopic signature of alanine an amino acid and building block of protein that essentially traps the carbon from dietary sugar so that it can be measured in the protein component of hair or blood,” O’Brien explained in the news release.

Even after foods and beverages are consumed, metabolized, transported in blood and stored in body tissues, these isotopic signatures remain largely intact

The more sugar-sweetened beverages an individual consumes, the greater alanine’s carbon isotope ratio will be. Importantly, O’Brien’s group found that alanine was uncorrelated with other foods that can contribute to elevated carbon ratios.

Although the use of isotope signatures to study food webs and diet is not new, previous efforts to accurately measure sweetener intake have not been particularly successful. The use of alanine and the technique employed by O’Brien’s group makes their findings particularly exciting.

“Even for validated and well-accepted biomarkers of diet, associations with self-reported intake are generally very weak. Our biomarker was able to explain almost half of the variation in self-reported sugar-sweetened beverage intake, which in this field is a very high level of explanatory power,” said O’Brien in the news release.

The scientists’ findings are also being used in other health and diet-related research

“Diane’s research program has provided CANHR with incredibly valuable objectively measured biomarkers of food intake,” said CANHR Director Bert Boyer, according to the news release. “These biomarkers are currently being used to help us understand the role polyunsaturated fatty acids play in disease prevention, including the modification of genetic risk.”

The tool is not without its drawbacks, caution the authors. “The gas chromatography-combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry process we used isn’t inexpensive and or widely available,” O’Brien said in the news release. “We expect that our findings will be most useful as a calibration tool, either for self-reported dietary data or more high-throughput biomarkers of sweetener intake.”

Research is done from a genetic, dietary, and cultural-behavioral perspective

The Center for Alaska Native Health Research was established through a five-year grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Research Resources to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The purpose of CANHR is to investigate weight, nutrition and health in Alaska Natives.

CANHR approaches this thematic focus from a genetic, dietary and cultural-behavioral perspective. The funding comes through a program for Centers of biomedical Research Excellence. This project is a partnership with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. The participants and data in this project are from the CANHR Neqem Nallunailkutaa (The Foods’ Market) study conducted in 2008-2009 in two coastal Yup’ik communities in Southwest Alaska.

Current circumstantial evidence on sugar? Or health information for consumers of holistic foods and health regimens? A new study's results published yesterday online reveals how too much sugar could be deadly by raising the risk of fatal heart problems, explains a University of California, San Francisco research team

What's your total daily consumption of sugars added to products during manufacturing (not naturally occurring sugars in fresh fruit and vegetables)? See, Three years ago another study by different researchers showed fructose also is linked to a higher risk of heart problems. See, "Fructose consumption increases risk factors for heart disease: Study."

The new study, "New Unsweetened Truths About Sugar" and the commentary by Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH, published online February 3, 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine, reveals the fatal heart problems risk, that is, the increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) of eating foods with added sugars, sweets you can't even taste as sweet in bread, ketchup, mayonnaise, or salad dressings. See,

Some Sacramento restaurants add sugar to their carrot raisin and their cole slaw salads

For example, in Sacramento and probably nationally, many restaurants don't realize how sweet carrots and raisins are by themselves. So to increase the sweetness, the food preparers dump a dollup of sugar into the carrot salad, even though the raisins by themselves are sweet enough to make your teeth ache. See, The cabbage or carrot salads are supposed to be served as sides dish with savory foods. Other restaurants dump sugar in the baked beans to sweeten the sauces, such as barbeque sauce on beans or meats.

If you look in the bulk bins of various health food stores, natural food markets, and supermarkets' natural food aisles in Sacramento and elsewhere, you'll see the ingredient labels on supposedly healthy granola varieties sporting added sugar, cane sugar, vegetable oils, and other products instead of simply grains and dried fruits, seeds, and nuts, without added sweeteners or added oils.

So many so-called healthy foods have added sugars and other ingredients besides the organic grains, nuts, seeds

The alternative is a diets of greens, beans, roots, and fruits without the added sauces containing sugars, oils, or other sweeteners to familiarize your taste buds to crave the taste of sweet instead of foods as they taste in their natural states. With the new study comes the label of "circumstantial evidence" by some physicians. So how can researchers prove what's healthy by looking at risk and statistics, mortality rates, and health exams of those who eat more or fewer added sugars in foods? Is it a claim, a statistic, or reason?

You have scientists going back to ice-age cave people to show hardening of the arteries existed, as found in mummies, at a time when nobody ate refined sugar, and most people chowed down fat, meat, fish, or vegetables and fruits long before people ate dairy or grain products.

Now that a new study has been published, sugar overconsumption is listed as an independent risk factor in CVD as well as many other chronic diseases, including diabetes mellitus, liver cirrhosis, and dementia—all linked to metabolic perturbations involving dyslipidemia, hypertension, and insulin resistance. See

This new paradigm hypothesizes that sugar has adverse health effects that raise the risk of fatal heart problems

Sugar added to foods act as empty calories. If you bake sweets, the natural fruit alone is sweet enough the sweeten the food without having to pour in the sugar. It gets you addicted to intense sweet taste so that when you eat natural fruit, you feel the need to sweeten it more. See,

How many recipes mention adding sugar, to foods such as oatmeal or blueberries or pouring sugar over strawberries. How many apple pie recipes call for added sugar sprinkled over the apples instead of spices alone such as cinnamon, cloves, or ginger to bring out the taste of the apples? See,

Try lemon juice and spices instead. If you need sweet, a pinch of stevia helps in some cases where sweetness must exist. But natural fruit alone will adapt taste buds to crave less sweet taste and get along with the taste of fruit. It's not just “empty calories”or obesity. Thin people eating added sugar also raise their risk of heart problems. us sick.

Many U.S. adults consume more added sugar (added in processing or preparing of foods, not naturally occurring as in fruits and fruit juices) than expert panels recommend for a healthy diet, and consumption of added sugar was associated with increased risk for death from cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to the new study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication

Recommendations for added sugar consumption vary and there is no universally accepted threshold for unhealthy levels. For example, the Institute of Medicine recommends that added sugar make up less than 25 percent of total calories, the World Health Organization recommends less than 10 percent, and the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to less than 100 calories daily for women and 150 calories daily for men, according to the study background.

Major sources of added sugar in Americans' diets are sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts and candy. A can of regular soda contains about 35g of sugar (about 140 calories). Sugar is added to beverages that many people buy for health reasons such as certain types of almond milk marked 'plain' but really are sweetened with cane sugar or various syrups because the consumer has to be alert enough to buy the carton marked 'unsweetened' not 'plain.' The word 'plain' refers to unflavored, as in no vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, or other flavoring is added, but sweeteners are added. It's tricky to those not familiar with the difference between plain and unsweetened.

Quanhe Yang, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues used national health survey data to examine added sugar consumption as a percentage of daily calories and to estimate association between consumption and CVD

Study results indicate that the average percentage of daily calories from added sugar increased from 15.7 percent in 1988-1994 to 16.8 percent in 1999 to 2004 and decreased to 14.9 percent in 2005-2010. In 2005-2010, most adults (71.4 percent) consumed 10 percent of more of their calories from added sugar and about 10 percent of adults consumed 25 percent or more of their calories from added sugar, according to the February 3, 2014 news release, "New Unsweetened Truths About Sugar" from the University of California, San Francisco's interdisciplinary health policy research group, the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies.

The Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies (IHPS) contributes to the solution of complex and challenging health policy problems through leadership in research, training, technical assistance, and public service. Our special competence lies in translating research across disciplines and fields to inform health policy. We undertake this work with a commitment to improve health and health care within local, state, national, and international communities and with a focus on improving the health of vulnerable populations. - See more at the: Health Policy UCSF site.

The Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies (IHPS) contributes to the solution of complex and challenging health policy problems through leadership in research, training, technical assistance, and public service, according to its website. The institute translates research across disciplines and fields to inform health policy. The institute's goal is to work with a commitment to improve health and health care within local, state, national, and international communities and with a focus on improving the health of vulnerable populations. See

In the new study on how sugar raises the risk of fatal heart problems, the authors note the risk of death from CVD increased with a higher percentage of calories from added sugar. Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (seven servings or more per week) was associated with increased risk of dying from CVD. See,

"Our results support current recommendations to limit the intake of calories from added sugars in U.S. diets," the authors conclude, according to the February 3, 2014 news release, "New Unsweetened Truths About Sugar." You can check out the abstract of the new study, "New Unsweetened Truths About Sugar" published online February 3, 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

In a related commentary, Laura A. Schmidt, Ph.D., M.S.W., M.P.H., of the University of California, San Francisco, writes: "We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in research on the health effects of sugar, one fueled by extremely high rates of added sugar overconsumption in the American public." See,

The big issue here is sugar as raising the risk of cardiovascular problems

Sugar all by itself is an independent risk factor in a lot of chronic diseases in addition to the raised risk of fatal heart problems. Not only does sugar raise the risk of heart problems, but it also raises the risk of other chronic diseases and higher mortality rates, in addition to raising the risk of obesity. But you still can be thin, eat excess sugar, and have similar risks.

Now the question remains whether the nation needs federal guidelines to help consumers set safe limits on how much added sugar in foods are eaten. When sugar is added to processed foods, the sugar adds up even though you can't taste it when it's added to condiments, salad dressings, sandwich spreads, breads, and crackers or other foods, such as restaurant salads. You can check out the study online. What's important to know is that sugar could be deadly because researcher suggest that sugar raises the risk of fatal heart problems as well as other chronic diseases, and that this new study is the biggest study of its kind. See,

How much sugar does it take to whack your heart?

Although scientists are talking about raising the risk of mortality in a population, the study explains that it doesn't take all that much extra sugar, hidden in many processed foods, to substantially raise the risk. The issue is most people, at least in the USA, eat a lot more than what researchers consider the 'safest' amount. The study didn't include natural sugars from fruit, for example.

If you eat a sweet baked product such as a doughnut, cupcake, cinnamon roll, or any other baked goods with added sugar along with a beverage such as coffee or tea, a super-sized sugary soda at lunch and a scoop of ice cream after dinner would put you in the highest risk category in the study.

That's considered excess sugar in your daily diet. By eating that way the researchers suggest that you're at a higher risk of dying prematurely from heart problems. Your risk with that diet is nearly three times greater than for people who eat only foods with little added sugar.

For someone who normally eats 2,000 calories daily, gulping down two 12-ounce cans of soda substantially increases the risk. For most American adults, sodas and other sugary drinks are the main source of added sugar. The study is the first nationally representative study to examine the issue. Now the only problem has left the scientists with another issue to solve and get measurable results.

Scientists aren't certain exactly how sugar may contribute to deadly heart problems, but it has been shown to increase blood pressure and levels of unhealthy cholesterol and triglycerides. Sugar also may increase inflammation linked with heart disease. If you do your own research from articles about nutrition, you can check out the many studies on what sugar does to health and also what high fructose corn syrups may do to health.

And many of these studies rely on funding either from the government or other sources. On the opposing end sits the income of the huge industries that manufacture and distribute sugar or add it to processed foods and all the businesses that profit from adding sugar to processed foods, even down to that restaurant that tells its food preparers to dump sugar into that carrot and raisin salad to sweeten it even more than the natural fruit and natural sugar in the sweet carrots do. See,

The researchers analyzed national health surveys between 1988 and 2010 that included questions about people's diets. The authors used national death data to calculate risks of dying during 15 years of follow-up

More than 30,000 American adults aged 44 on average were involved in that new study. Those who would like to see sugar taken out of barbeque sauces, ketchup, salad dressings, sandwich spreads, bread, nondairy milk substitute beverages, canned fruits, and many other processed food products also may notice in the study that the researchers say that obesity didn't explain the link between sugary diets and death. That link was found even in normal-weight people who ate lots of added sugar in the new study.

If sugar makes you sick not just obese, the goal would be to just get your taste buds used to the sugar naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables without adding more, even when you can't taste it. Too much sugar still is added to tomato sauce and salad dressing to make tomatoes taste sweeter than they are in nature. It creates a sugar craving issue when the brain becomes so addicted to sugar that people crave more intense sweetness in foods such as tomato sauce poured over a savory meal. See,

Some restaurants have a secret recipe: adding sugar to raw ground beef to sweeten burgers

It's going to be difficult to get people to agree on how much sugar is too much as there is no universal consensus on what excess sugar in the diet really is about using numbers or grams. U.S government dietary guidelines issued in 2010 say "empty" calories including those from added sugars should account for no more than 15 percent of total daily calories, according to the government report, "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 -"

Also see, "Sugar Tied to Fatal Heart Woes; Soda's a Culprit - ABC News." In the study, researchers found that the average number of daily calories from added sugar among U.S. adults was about 15 percent toward the end of the study, slightly lower than in previous years. What the researchers in the study found emphasized that as sugar intake increased, risks climbed steeply. See,

The study's findings noted that adults who ate at least 25 percent of their calories from added sugar were almost three times more likely to die of heart problems than those who consumed the least — less than 10 percent. For those who gulped down more than 15 percent — or the equivalent of about two cans of sugary soda out of 2,000 calories daily — the risk was almost 20 percent higher than the safest level. See,

If you're looking at sugar, for example added to that yogurt or other comfort food, just one teaspoon of sugar adds up to about 16 calories. One 12-ounce can of non-diet soda contains has about 9 teaspoons of sugar or about 140 calories. If you chomp that cinnamon rolls, most have about 13 teaspoons of sugar;. Or a scoop of chocolate ice cream has about 5 teaspoons of sugar. And yogurt can contain about 7 teaspoons of sugar or more in that little carton you buy at the market. See,

Currently, the studies on sugar and health effects are supposedly circumstantial evidence rather than proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that sugar is a fatal whack to your system. About six percent of the world's population could eat anything edible and live beyond a century. People have to choose whether the rely on genes they don't know whether or not they've inherited from family members who may have ate almost anything and survived their doctors. And others have systems where they need to avoid sugars or they get high insulin surges in their blood that ages out their arteries. See,

Study of phtalates from plastic wraps on vegetables/fruits also would be of interest

Is it true that the pthalates from plastic wraps are measured a lot higher in people that eat packaged vegetables wrapped in plastic package wrappings than those who buy fresh produce not wrapped in plastic packaging and take the time to scrape, clean, or peel and chop the vegetables instead of opening the bag? Would vegetables be safer packed in something that doesn't leach out phthalates and plasticizers into the vegetables or fruits? See, Cling Wrap Could be Leaching Chemicals - University of Oregon, and "How to Store Food Without Using Toxic Plastics - Mercola." Or see, "Which plastics leach toxins." Check out, "Study: All Plastics Are Bad for Your Body | Rodale News."

Also please check out and/or subscribe (free) to any or all of my 8 various nutrition, health, or cultural media columns such as my Sacramento Nutrition Examiner column, Sacramento Healthy Trends Examiner column, Sacramento Holistic Family Health Examiner column, Sacramento Media & Culture Examiner column, and my national columns: National Senior Health Examiner column, National Children's Nutrition Examiner column, National Writing Examiner column, and the National Healthy Trends Examiner column. You also may wish to check out the slideshow on of 50 of Hart's 91 paperback book covers.

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