Sugar has a direct effect on risk factors for heart disease and is likely to impact blood pressure, independent of weight gain, a new research has warned.

Dr Lisa Te Morenga, Professor Jim Mann and colleagues from New Zealand’s University of Otago conducted a review and meta-analysis of all international studies that compared the effects of higher versus lower added sugar consumption on blood pressure and lipids (blood fats or cholesterol) – both of which are important cardiovascular risk-factors.

They located dietary intervention trials published in English-speaking journals between 1965 and 2013, comparing diets where the only intended differences were the amount of sugars and non-sugar carbohydrates consumed by the participants, and which measured the effects of these diets on lipids and blood pressure.

On the basis of 39 clinical trials, researchers have been able to identify the harmful effects of consuming sugar in one’s diet and the risk it poses to our heart. Consumption of high levels of sugar has impacts on the blood pressure directly apart from the fact that it promotes weight gain as well. In a study independent of weight gain, and only on risk factors to heart diseases, sugar seems to have a direct effect.

Dr Te Morenga says previous research showed that there did not appear to be any special metabolic effect of sugars making people more likely to gain weight on high-sugar diets compared with low sugar diets when the total amount of carbohydrates and energy remains the same.

Dr. Lisa added, “In subgroup analysis we showed that by excluding the trails funded by the food/sugar industry, we found larger effects of sugar on lipids and blood pressure.” The findings of this study have been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.