A US study about the potential deadliness of consuming too much sugar has raised alarm bells in Sweden, where doctors and health experts warn that Swedes already eat enough unhealthy food.
The study was carried out by the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and has been touted as the most comprehensive when it comes to measuring mortality from sugar. Researchers studied over 30,000 Americans over a period of more than 14 years, with the average respondent aged 44.
While previous connections have been made between sugar and obesity, or diabetes, researchers focused on deaths caused by cardiovascular disease as a result of too much sugar intake, particularly in the case of added sugars like those in soda. In fact, the researchers found that just one can of soda a day can increase risks of heart complications threefold.
"This is a warning signal that shows people should take the recommendations of Sweden's National Food Agency seriously," Claude Marcus, professor at Karolinksa Institute, told the TT news agency.
Swedes, on average, get around 10 percent of their energy intake from sugar. A report from the Swedish National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket
) in 2011 showed that Swedes ate on average 47 grammes of sugar a day, which corresponds to roughly 200 calories.
Nordic nutritional recommendations suggest sugar should account for no more than ten percent of energy intake - and preferably no more than eight percent.
Such an intake would suggest no heart risks according to the new US study. The American Heart Assosciation recommends 25 grammes of sugar a day for women, and 38 grammes for men, which translates to around five and 7.5 percent of energy intake respectively.
"If you eat sugared cereal, drink sweetened drinks, take sweet side dishes with your coffee and a bun with your evening fika, then it's easy to go over the edge," Marcus explained.
News of the US study made major headlines on Tuesday across Sweden, a country where only 16 percent of the average person's calorie intake is beneficial to their health, according to figures published in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.
A host of doctors took to the debate pages of the broadsheet and explained the downsides of Swedish supermarkets, where healthy food is costly and where the majority of Swedish people's calory intake comes from meat, cream, cheese and eggs.
"Unhealthy food is available everywhere and always. There's fast food, candy, and soda at every turn, and anyone wanting to eat healthy is often faced with a difficult challenge," the doctors wrote.
While an editorial accompanying the US study said that "too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick," Claude Marcus at Karolinska was a little more forgiving.
"Sugar isn't poisonous, there's nothing wrong with having a bit of candy. It's nothing we need to avoid," he said.