Harvard Heart Letter

Sugary drinks may raise levels of harmful blood fats

Drinking sodas and other beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup may boost levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood, according to a study in the June 2015 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers assigned 85 healthy adults to four different groups. One group drank beverages containing the artificial sweetener aspartame, while the others drank beverages sweetened with various percentages (10%, 17.5%, and 25%) of high-fructose corn syrup. After two weeks, LDL cholesterol levels held steady in people who drank aspartame-sweetened drinks. But among those who drank beverages with high-fructose corn syrup, LDL cholesterol rose in tandem with the percentage of sweetener.

The people who got the least high-fructose corn syrup (the 10% group) consumed an amount equal to what you'd get by drinking about a can and a half of soda per day. Their LDL levels rose from an average of 95 to 102 (optimal levels are 100 or lower). The findings may help explain earlier research suggesting that the risk of dying from heart disease increases with the amount of sugar in a person's diet.

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