The Sugar Association is very disappointed that a premier health organization such as the American Heart Association (AHA) would issue a scientific statement titled "Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health" without a higher standard of evidence to support its contentions and therefore mislead the average consumer. Very few of the cited references by AHA are directly related to sugars and heart health impacts. The statement infers that there is a direct correlation to sugars intake and cardiovascular health, when clearly, by their own admission the body of compelling science is lacking, for example "…the chronic effects of a high intake of simple sugars on blood pressure remain uncertain (emphasis added)."
We contend a misplaced emphasis on sugar-containing foods is an oversimplification of the current cardiovascular problem and will have the same failed outcome as the simplistic low-fat messages of the 1990s. In fact, it may have unforeseen detrimental consequences. As per capita consumption of total sugars continues to decline, per capita consumption of fat and total calories has reached unprecedented levels.
Simply reducing sugars in the diet, as this paper contends, is counterproductive if a reduction in total caloric intake is not achieved. Dietary interventions that focus on the reduction of individual nutrients will continue to obscure the most important message: If one consumes more calories - no matter the source - than one burns, weight gain is inevitable. By its own admission, the AHA states, "….it is unlikely that a single food or food group is primarily causal." Even the AHA statement summary and recommendations highlights that the body of science is deficient, "Hence, it is likely (emphasis added) that weight gain over the same period must be related in part to increased intake of added sugars, even though research tools thus far have been insufficient to confirm a direct link."
Every major systematic review of the body of scientific evidence exonerates sugar as the cause of any lifestyle disease, including heart disease and obesity. In 2002, after its 3-year comprehensive review, the expert panel assembled by the Food and Nutrition Board within the Institute of Medicine at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences stated publicly that the body of scientific evidence did not support the establishment of an upper level (UL) for total or added sugars intake based on data available for dental caries, behavior, cancer, risk of obesity and risk of hyperlipidemia.
This was recently reaffirmed by the European Food Safety Authority which concluded "Available data do not allow the setting of an UL for total or added sugars, neither an accepted intake (AI) nor a recommended intake range."
The IoM study also addressed the issue of nutrient displacement from sugars and concluded that important macronutrients were not displaced until the added sugars content reached 25% in some subgroups of the American population. Historical data shows that the average American does not come anywhere close to consuming 25% of their calories from added sugars. Furthermore, the AHA report admitted that many sugar-containing foods help contribute to the intake of key vitamins and minerals. In the report they state, "In fact, when sugars are added to otherwise nutrient rich foods, such as sugar-sweetened dairy products like flavored milk and yogurt and sugar-sweetened cereals, the quality of children's and adolescents' diets improved, and in the case of flavored milks, no adverse effects on weight status were found."
The sugars intake recommendation within this statement, specifically those regarding limiting intake of added sugars are based solely on the Food Guide Pyramid recommendations which are purely mathematical calculations, not science-based recommendations.
Sugar is all natural and just 15 calories per teaspoon and is an important ingredient in many healthy foods. Sugar is used in our food supply not only because it provides sweet taste, but also provides essential functional properties in food formulation, especially safety due to its preservative action. Sugar makes many healthy foods palatable, which contributes to intakes of key nutrients needed to maintain good health, as this statement freely reported and admitted.