Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding

Nutrients. 2016 Nov 4;8(11):697. doi: 10.3390/nu8110697.


Added sugars are a controversial and hotly debated topic. Consumption of added sugars has been implicated in increased risk of a variety of chronic diseases including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) as well as cognitive decline and even some cancers. Support for these putative associations has been challenged, however, on a variety of fronts. The purpose of the current review is to summarize high impact evidence including systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and randomized controlled trials (RCTs), in an attempt to provide an overview of current evidence related to added sugars and health considerations. This paper is an extension of a symposium held at the Experimental Biology 2015 conference entitled "Sweeteners and Health: Current Understandings, Controversies, Recent Research Findings and Directions for Future Research". We conclude based on high quality evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCT), systematic reviews and meta-analyses of cohort studies that singling out added sugars as unique culprits for metabolically based diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease appears inconsistent with modern, high quality evidence and is very unlikely to yield health benefits. While it is prudent to consume added sugars in moderation, the reduction of these components of the diet without other reductions of caloric sources seems unlikely to achieve any meaningful benefit.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; diabetes; high fructose corn syrup; obesity; sucrose.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Diet
  • Dietary Sucrose / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Sucrose / adverse effects*
  • Energy Intake
  • Fructose / adverse effects
  • Fructose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / epidemiology
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors


  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Fructose