In following with this month’s theme on heart health awareness and prevention of heart disease, I wanted to share something that you may NOT know. Sugar, not fat, is the real culprit of heart disease!
That is why I titled this blog, sugar is the sweet white death. Recent research has shown an association between a high-sugar diet and a greater risk of heart disease. Over the course of the 15-year study, people who consumed 17% to 21% of their caloric intake from added sugar had a 38% higher rate of dying from heart disease compared to those who consumed 8% of their calories as added sugar (1).
You might wonder how saturated fats got the bad name when sugar didn’t. Well, let me share some mind-blowing history with you, which is also quite disturbing.
In 1967, the sugar industry (Sugar Research Foundation, now known as the Sugar Association) hired three prestigious Harvard scientists to publish an article in the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine, minimizing the link between sugar and heart disease and maximizing the link between fats and heart disease. These scientists were paid approximately $ 50,000 each to place blame on saturated fats as the culprit, when in reality it was sugar that was the real culprit. Sadly, money overpowered ethics in this case.
Here’s the link if you would like to read the article published in the NY Times in September, 2016.
Following this falsified study, Health officials in the United States started promoting “low-fat” diets for Americans- only to later lead to enormous consumption of high sugar foods. Some believe that this helped fuel the obesity crisis that we have in the United States today.
Before we lump all sugars together, we need to realize that not all sugars are alike.
Sugar occurs naturally in all foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products. Consuming whole foods that contain natural sugar is not necessarily bad for you. Plant foods contain large amounts of fiber, essential minerals and anti-oxidants while dairy foods contain protein and calcium. Our bodies digest these foods slowly, providing a steady supply of energy to our cells. This allows a slow release of insulin into our blood stream to get glucose into our cells. Compare this with eating a donut or drinking a soda – 16 g- 35 g of sugar floods our blood stream leading to high glucose levels with zero nutritional value or fiber content. Over time, this leads to insulin resistance/Type 2 Diabetes, in addition to heart disease.
In the American diet, the top sources of added sugar are found in soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cookies, cakes, candy and processed foods. It’s also alarming to see the large amounts of sugar “hidden” in other foods you would not think were sweetened. These include soups, breads, cured meats and ketchup.
The impact of this – we are consuming way too much added sugar and we may not even know it. Scientists believe that high amounts of added sugar raises our blood pressure, overloads our livers leading to “fatty liver disease”, diabetes and increased inflammation. When large amounts of sugar go to our livers, dietary carbohydrates are converted to fats. Fats are then released into the blood stream to form plaque in our arteries, known as atherosclerosis, leading to heart disease.
How can we decrease our of intake of sugars? Read the food labels!
Avoid or limit the amount of:
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Fruit Juice concentrates
Also, look at the total amount of servings listed for the amount of sugar gram content. One serving may have 10 grams of sugar but the usual serving amount may be 3-4 servings, meaning 30-40 grams of sugar.
According to the American Heart Association’s (AHA)recommendations, women should consume less than 100 cal/day (6 teaspoons) and men less than 150 calories (9 teaspoons) per day. To give you some perspective, drinking one 12 ounce can of coke contains approximately 36 grams of sugar. That’s 6 times more than what the AHA soda recommends per day - in one soda!
A healthy diet does contain some sugars, but be mindful of which sugars you are eating – choose fruits and vegetables which contain fiber, nutrients and anti-oxidants over the empty calories and lack of nutritional value in cookies, cakes and processed foods.