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Can excessive sugar cause heart problems? Surprisingly, yes.



The reality is that the excessive use of sugar by young people are being identified as causes for their problems with obesity. However, what many do not realize is that sugar can also cause cardiovascular problems in people.

That was something that I did not realize. Researchers have broken that problem down, and it is one that many people, particularly men, should be aware of in their dietary practices.

I worked with a student in California this spring. In the writing assignment, she was given the opportunity to argue either for or against a proposed “sugar tax.” That was when I realized this.


Study

As I was helping my student research this topic, here is what I discovered,

The result is that we consume way too much added sugar. Adult men take in an average of 24 teaspoons of added sugar per day, according to the National Cancer Institute. That's equal to 384 calories.

"Excess sugar's impact on obesity and diabetes is well documented, but one area that may surprise many men is how their taste for sugar can have a serious impact on their heart healtznh," says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In a study published in 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine, Dr. Hu and his colleagues found an association between a high-sugar diet and a greater risk of dying from heart disease. Over the course of the 15-year study, people who got 17% to 21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared with those who consumed 8% of their calories as added sugar.

"Basically, the higher the intake of added sugar, the higher the risk for heart disease," says Dr. Hu.

“The Sweet Danger of Sugar,” Harvard Health, January 6, 2022


Natural vs. Added Sugar

The study was clear to differentiate between naturally-occurring sugar and that which we add to our diets. It is the latter that is problematic,

Sugar has a bittersweet reputation when it comes to health. Sugar occurs naturally in all foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, and dairy. Consuming whole foods that contain natural sugar is okay. Plant foods also have high amounts of fiber, essential minerals, and antioxidants, and dairy foods contain protein and calcium.


Since your body digests these foods slowly, the sugar in them offers a steady supply of energy to your cells. A high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains also has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.


“The Sweet Danger of Sugar,” Harvard Health, January 6, 2022


If that is the case, what is the danger are for sugar?

Science has proven that chronic, low-grade inflammation can turn into a silent killer that contributes to cardiovas­cular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and other conditions.


In the American diet, the top sources are soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cookies, cakes, candy, and most processed foods. But added sugar is also present in items that you may not think of as sweetened, like soups, bread, cured meats, and ketchup.

The result: we consume way too much added sugar. Adult men take in an average of 24 teaspoons of added sugar per day, according to the National Cancer Institute. That's equal to 384 calories.


Excess sugar's impact on obesity and diabetes is well documented, but one area that may surprise many men is how their taste for sugar can have a serious impact on their heart health," says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“The Sweet Danger of Sugar,” Harvard Health, January 6, 2022

How do we avoid these?

The Harvard study lists some of the areas that should be of concern to consumers,

Reading food labels is one of the best ways to monitor your intake of added sugar. Look for the following names for added sugar and try to either avoid, or cut back on the amount or frequency of the foods where they are found:

  • brown sugar

  • corn sweetener

  • corn syrup

  • fruit juice concentrates

  • high-fructose corn syrup

  • honey

  • invert sugar

  • malt sugar

  • molasses

  • syrup sugar molecules ending in "ose" (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose).

“The Sweet Danger of Sugar,” Harvard Health, January 6, 2022


I have learned a great deal from my students this year, but this is one area in which I should take more time to evaluate.





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