Higher consumption of sugar was also associated with higher levels of triglycerides, and a link between sugar consumption and levels of dangerous LDL cholesterol was seen for women but not for men.
People in the study who got 25 percent or more of their calories from sugar reported gaining an average of 2.8 pounds in the previous year, while those whose sugar intake accounted for less than 5 percent reported an average weight loss of about a third of a pound.
The study "adds further support for the American Heart Association recommendations about sugar," said Rachel K. Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and lead author of a 2009 scientific statement on the issue.
"We now have evidence from a large, nationwide survey that added sugar intake is associated with the risk factors for heart disease," Johnson said.
The heart association recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars a day -- about one ounce, or six teaspoons -- of sugar, and that men limit their intake to 150 calories a day, or about nine teaspoons.
That sugar is best taken in a food product with other nutrients, such as flavored yogurt or a whole-grain breakfast cereal, Johnson said.
Food manufacturers could help by providing more informative food labels, listing sugar content in terms of teaspoonfuls rather than calories, Vos said.
On a personal basis, Americans should read food labels more carefully to know how much sugar they might be eating, she said.
The Sugar Association, an industry group, responded with a statement saying it "disputes the notion that sugar consumption has increased." It cited a U.S. Department of Agriculture report that claimed consumption of caloric sweeteners, including sugar, has decreased 9.7 percent over the past decade.
"All-natural sugar has been a healthy part of diets for 2,000 years," the association said in the statem
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