Long-term intakes of added sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with higher pericardial adipose tissue, visceral adipose tissue, and subcutaneous adipose tissue volumes leading to higher risks of heart disease and diabetes

The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, examined both sugar-sweetened beverages and sugar added to foods and beverages for sweetness and analysed the association between long-term sugar consumption and fat stores around the heart and other organs.

It found that sugar intake over the 20-year period was related to fat volumes later in life. Higher intakes of both sugar-sweetened beverages and added sugar were related to greater fat stores around organs in a stepwise fashion.

Higher risks of heart disease and diabetes

"Our findings provide more evidence that consuming too much added sugar and sugary drinks is related to a higher amount of fat tissue," said study author Dr. Lyn Steffen of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. "And, we know that fat deposits are connected with higher risks of heart disease and diabetes.

"On top of our individual efforts, governments, food manufacturers, restaurants, schools, and workplaces have a role to play in increasing consumer awareness of the sugar content in foods and beverages and offering healthier alternatives."

Data were obtained from Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA), an ongoing cohort study in the US that includes centres in Alabama, California, Illinois, and Minnesota. A total of 3,070 healthy participants aged 18 to 30 were included in this study.

Food and beverage intakes were measured three times over a 20-year period (1985 to 2005). After 25 years (in 2010) computed tomography (CT) scans of the chest and abdomen were performed to measure fat volumes in the abdomen and around the heart.