Fructose-Sweetened Beverages Raise Risk of CVD for Obese Individuals

Obese individuals, who are already at significantly increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), have a pronounced rise in another CVD risk factor, blood triglyceride levels, after consuming fructose-sweetened beverages.

Triglycerides are both necessary for a healthy, functioning body, and dangerous when found in high levels in the blood stream. Most commonly, high triglyceride levels increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries. Triglycerides are found within the blood, and are a product of nutritional intake.

Fructose, and glucose, are common sugars, found in both natural fruits and vegetables, as well as processed beverages and table sugar, as well as high-fructose corn syrup. Most processed beverages contain both fructose and glucose, but sometimes one is used more than the other. The aim of the study was to see which sugar posed more of a risk to CVD, but was not performed in a way able to identify what level of each sugar could lead to problems. Future research will need to investigate beverages with both fructose and glucose, in varying quantities. Fructose, as a note, is also characteristically sweeter than glucose.

The current study was conducted on 17 obese individuals, in which they were fed two identical meals, except one with a glucose sweetened beverage, and the other with a fructose sweetened beverage. Blood was drawn intravenously from each participant during and after the meal.

The main finding of the study was that blood triglyceride levels were nearly 200% higher following the fructose beverage meal than following the glucose beverage meal. This effect was noted to be the most pronounced in obese individuals with insulin-resistance, a pre-diabetic condition characterized by a diminished ability to recognize and process insulin, leading to improper blood glucose regulation. This observation suggests that fructose-sweetened beverages are even riskier for obese pre-diabetics (and likely full diabetics as well), than for non-pre-diabetic obese individuals. “Fructose can cause even greater elevations of triglyceride levels in obese insulin-resistant individuals, worsening their metabolic profiles and further increasing their risk for diabetes and heart disease,” says lead author Dr. Karen Teff.

The above findings, while not definitive, do indicate that obese individuals, especially those who are pre-diabetic, should limit the amount of beverages they drink that are sweetened with significant amounts of fructose. Concludes Dr. Teff, “increased triglycerides after a meal are known predictors of cardiovascular disease. Our findings show that fructose-sweetened beverages raise triglyceride levels in obese people, who already are at risk for metabolic disorders such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Teff, Karen. Stein, Leslie. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. February 2009.