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Importance: Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are associated with increased risk of metabolic syndrome (MetS). However, the role of other important food sources of fructose-containing sugars in the development of MetS remains unclear.

Objective: To examine the association of major food sources of fructose-containing sugars with incident MetS.

Data Sources: MEDLINE, Embase, and Cochrane Library were searched from database inception to March 24, 2020, in addition to manual searches of reference lists from included studies using the following search terms: sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit drink, yogurt, metabolic syndrome, and prospective study.

Study Selection: Inclusion criteria included prospective cohort studies of 1 year or longer that investigated the association of important food sources of fructose-containing sugars with incident MetS in participants free of MetS at the start of the study.

Data Extraction and Synthesis: Study quality was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. Extreme quantile risk estimates for each food source with MetS incidence were pooled using a random-effects meta-analysis. Interstudy heterogeneity was assessed (Cochran Q statistic) and quantified (I2 statistic). Dose-response analyses were performed using a 1-stage linear mixed-effects model. The certainty of the evidence was assessed using GRADE (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation). Results were reported according to the Meta-analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (MOOSE) and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) reporting guidelines.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Pooled risk ratio (RR) of incident MetS (pairwise and dose response).

Results: Thirteen prospective cohort studies (49 591 participants [median age, 51 years; range, 6-90 years]; 14 205 with MetS) that assessed 8 fructose-containing foods and MetS were included. An adverse linear dose-response association for SSBs (RR for 355 mL/d, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.05-1.23) and an L-shaped protective dose-response association for yogurt (RR for 85 g/d, 0.66; 95% CI, 0.58-0.76) and fruit (RR for 80 g/d, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.78-0.86) was found. Fruit juices (mixed and 100%) had a U-shaped dose-response association with protection at moderate doses (mixed fruit juice: RR for 125 mL/d, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.42-0.79; 100% fruit juice: RR for 125 mL/d, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.61-0.97). Honey, ice cream, and confectionary had no association with MetS incidence. The certainty of the evidence was moderate for SSBs, yogurt, fruit, mixed fruit juice, and 100% fruit juice and very low for all other food sources.

Conclusions and Relevance: The findings of this meta-analysis suggest that the adverse association of SSBs with MetS does not extend to other food sources of fructose-containing sugars, with a protective association for yogurt and fruit throughout the dose range and for 100% fruit juice and mixed fruit juices at moderate doses. Therefore, current policies and guidelines on the need to limit sources of free sugars may need to be reexamined.

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