Sugars, hypertriglyceridemia, and cardiovascular disease

Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Oct;78(4):873S-880S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/78.4.873S.


Short-term studies consistently show that raising the carbohydrate content of the diet increases serum triacylglycerol concentrations. As compared with starches, sugars (particularly sucrose and fructose) tend to increase serum triacylglycerol concentrations by approximately 60%. The magnitude of the effect depends on other aspects of the diet, including the total amount of carbohydrate and the types of fat, carbohydrate, and fiber, but definitive studies to describe the dose-response relations are not available. Longer-term studies show that some high-carbohydrate diets are not associated with increased fasting serum triacylgycerol concentrations. However, sedentary subjects with upper-body and visceral obesity who have the metabolic syndrome tend to be at higher risk for hypertriglyceridemia in response to high-sucrose and high-carbohydrate diets; moderate weight loss mitigates the effect. Hyperinsulinemia or insulin resistance may play a role in promoting higher rates of VLDL synthesis and hypertriglyceridemia in obesity, but the mechanisms remain unclear. The effect of fructose in promoting triacylglycerol synthesis is independent of insulinemia, however. In terms of the long-term effects of diets high in sugars on the risk of cardiovascular disease, available epidemiologic evidence indicates no association of sugars or total carbohydrate intake per se, but high dietary glycemic load is associated with higher serum triacylglycerol concentrations and greater risk of coronary heart disease in women. Studies are needed to delineate the independent effects of dietary sugars and glycemic load on serum triacylglycerol concentrations in lean and obese men and women and to determine whether the elevations in fasting and fed concentrations of serum triacylglycerol with high-carbohydrate and high-sugars diets are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates* / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Carbohydrates* / adverse effects
  • Dietary Carbohydrates* / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertriglyceridemia* / chemically induced
  • Hypertriglyceridemia* / genetics
  • Hypertriglyceridemia* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Obesity / chemically induced


  • Dietary Carbohydrates