Surprisingly Sinful Sugar

Sugar and exercise

Do you remember your parents lecturing  you not to eat too much sugar because it would lead to obesity or dental cavities?  They were right – these health concerns have been scientifically confirmed.

But Wait!  There’s More!

New meta-studies have shown that added sugars (like sucrose and  high-fructose corn syrup) to be risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), type 2 diabetes, abnormal lipids and hypertension.  These sugars, which are slipped into muffins, ice cream, soft drinks, and so many other products during processing are a real cause for concern.  The good news is that the naturally occurring sugars in fresh fruit are not a problem.

Cardiovascular Disease:

CVD risk becomes elevated once added sugar intake surpasses 15% of daily calories. To help put that math into real-life terms, this means that your risk for CVD will increase if you drink more than 7 sugar sweetened beverages a week.  Even worse, the CVD mortality risk increases with an increase in sugar intake.

Type 2 Diabetes:

Habitual consumption of sugar sweetened beverages is independently associated with a greater incidence of type 2 diabetes.   Again, the data also supports the recommendation to consume a wide variety of fruits, which have naturally occurring sugars and have not been linked to the incidence of type 2 diabetes.

Blood pressure and blood lipids:

Randomized controlled trials have shown an association between higher intakes of sugar and harmful increased concentrations of triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL (low density lipoproteins) cholesterol and blood pressure.  The researchers explain that consumption of fructose in sugar sweetened beverages increases liver fat synthesis, which results in higher concentrations of circulating triglycerides and cholesterol.

How much is too much sugar?

The American Heart Association recommends that adult females consume less than 6 teaspoons, or about 25 grams of sugar daily.  Adult males should consume less than 9 teaspoons, or 38 grams of sugar daily.

“But I love my diet coke!”

The negative health risks of consuming  too much added sucrose and fructose clearly indicate that we should eat whole foods, as opposed to processed foods, as much as possible. However, going “cold turkey” can seem like a grim proposition.  Keep in mind that small changes can make a difference.  Cutting back on sugar sweetened beverages will help.  Check the nutrition labels on your favorite yogurt and breakfast cereal. I was shocked to see that my beloved granola has 15 grams of sugar in a single serving!   (I found a much lower sugar cereal instead and have added a piece of delicious fresh fruit to my breakfast routine – very satisfying!)

Be mindful about the added sugars in everything you eat, including sauces, salad dressings, crackers and bread.  You probably won’t be able to avoid all sugar sweetened products, but if you start limiting them in your daily diet, you’ll be much better off.

Just think of the lectures our parents could have delivered if they knew then what we know now about sugar!

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