Published on December 4th, 2017 | by Dr. Doug Pucci0
Added Sugars and Heart Health
For decades, Americans and others around the world were led to believe that fats were the true evil behind cardiovascular disease. Doctors preached that a protein-packed breakfast of eggs and meat should be replaced by whole grain cereals and other carb-based choices. But now JAMA Internal Medicine, the American Heart Association and the British Heart Foundation report that it is actually added sugars, not fats, that contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Many people don’t realize how much sugar they’re ingesting on a daily basis, mainly because they’re used to unhealthy choices being a regular part of their lives. This is either because they don’t realize how much added sugar is in the products they’re eating or because of hidden sugars in some products. But when these commonplace, seemingly small everyday choices are added together, the amount of sugar being consumed by most people is staggering. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that most adults consume 10 percent of their calories from added sugar, and 10 percent of adults get a whopping 25 percent or more of their calories from added sugar. When researchers compared these two groups to people that get less than 10 percent of their calories from added sugar, there was a significant difference in cardiovascular disease rates and mortality.
The same study showed adults that consumed 21 percent of their caloric intake from added sugars had more than twice the risk of a heart attack, while those with the highest sugar intake raised their risk of cardiovascular disease by 400 percent. Those are some pretty serious numbers.
Sweetened drinks like sodas, sports/energy drinks, bottled iced tea drinks, specialty coffees and others top the list of the most heavily consumed sugar-added products. For perspective, a 12-ounce soda can contain anywhere between 9.5 to 12.5 teaspoons of sugar – if you more than one soda per day, sugar intake increases from soda alone. Then add in even more sugar from these commonly consumed culprits and many others.
Sweetened breakfast cereals and oatmeal mixes
Jams, jellies, preserves, honey, spreads and syrups
Cakes, candy and cookies
Yogurts with sweetened fruit added
Other processed foods such as packaged meals and frozen waffles
Naturally occurring sugars found in the structure of fruit aren’t the same as sugars that are added to products, and the study found fruits did not contribute to heart disease. In addition, fresh fruit offers many other important nutrients that benefit good health.
There are a few different ways that sugar takes a toll on heart health. First and most obviously, an excess of sugar can lead to becoming overweight or obese, both of which are known to increase the risk of heart disease. But regardless of weight, sugar also raises blood pressure and creates inflammation in the body, which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and other health problems.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t have any sugar in our diet, but less is more when it comes to y=our health. The American Heart Association has revised its recommendation for sugar consumption, stating that women should have less than six teaspoons of sugar per day and men should consume less than nine teaspoons per day.
Most children, teens and adults are consuming far more added sugar than is considered safe, but it’s easy to find healthy alternatives that will benefit us in multiple ways and begin to reverse the effects of added sugars. Replace sugary snacks with fresh fruits, seeds and nuts; squeeze citrus fruits into sparkling water or cold still water to replace soda and enhanced waters; and use fresh vegetables, rice and meats rather than frozen or prepackaged products. It’s surprising how many health improvements these simple dietary changes can make.