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What too much sugar could do to your heart

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Sugar is ne in moderation, but when eaten to excess it can contribute to heart disease.

What amount you should be eating, and ways to cut down.

Even if you’re not all that enamored with dessert, it’s easy to overdo it on sugar because it’s almost impossible to avoid. Inescapable temptations and hidden sources lead many of us to eat more of the sweet stuff in a single day than our great-grandparents used to consume in a whole week.

Too much extra sugar could cut your lifetime short by increasing your risk for conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who got as little as 10% of their daily calories from added sugar were nearly a third more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who ate less sugar. People who got 25% of their daily calories from sugar nearly tripled their risk of death from heart disease.

The most obvious reason for the connection is that sugar contributes to weight gain, a leading cause of poor cardiovascular health. Yet there are other causes, too. “The obesity part is definitely one pathway, but there are other biological pathways,” says Dr. Teresa Fung, adjunct professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“Another possibility is that high carbohydrate intake—sugar is a carbohydrate—can increase triglyceride levels in the blood. And triglycerides are fat, which can end up in the arteries,” she adds. High sugar intake has also been linked to elevated blood pressure and lowered HDL (good) cholesterol levels, both contributors to heart disease.

How much sugar is too much?

So how much sugar is safe for your heart—and the rest of you? The current U.S. standard set by the Institute of Medicine is the most lenient, advising us to get no more than 25% of our daily calories from sugar. Yet, as the JAMA Internal Medicine study suggests, that may be too much.

According to the American Heart Association, women shouldn’t get more than 100 of their calories each day from sugar. And in March, the World Health Organization lowered its sugar recommendation from 10% of daily calorie intake to 5%. Whichever advice you follow, you’re allowed about 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of sugar a day—less than the amount contained in a single can of soda. If you’re sedentary or overweight, you may need to cut down even more.

Cutting back

How can you ease off on added sugar? “Eat fresh as much as possible,” Dr. Fung suggests. Buy real foods—vegetables, fruits, brown rice, cheese—and cook your own meals to make sure you don’t get any sweet surprises in your food.

When you do buy processed or packaged foods, there are some obvious ones to avoid, including sodas, fruit drinks, desserts, and jelly. But there are also more subtle sources of sugar—like yogurt. Though seemingly healthy, a single serving of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt can contain 15 to 20 grams of sugar—nearly a day’s worth. Instead of buying presweetened yogurt, Dr. Fung recommends getting plain and then adding a little bit of fruit to it for sweetness.

When you buy any packaged foods, the best advice is to read the label very carefully, she suggests. Compare the labels of different brands and purchase the one with the least amount of sugar. New food labels the FDA has proposed should soon make it easier to spot added sugar in packaged foods.

In the meantime, be on the lookout for sugar that goes by other names—like high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, honey, fruit juice concentrate, and cane juice. These aliases don’t change the fact that the sweetener will cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to spike and make you gain weight in the exact same way as white processed sugar. “When it comes to added sugar, whether it’s natural or not natural, nutritionally it does not make a difference,” Dr. Fung says. Finally, be mindful of products where you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find sugar—like ketchup, barbecue sauce, and tomato sauce, all of which can be loaded with it.

Some people find that when it comes to limiting sugar, going cold turkey is best. But that method doesn’t work for everyone. “For most people, I would recommend trying to choose one food or one category of food, try to improve that area, and then move on to another area,” Dr. Fung says. “The most obvious thing to limit is sugar-sweetened beverages.” To help you cut back on soda, add fruit juice to carbonated water. You’ll get the fizz and sweetness you crave, without all the sugar. Or, make your own iced tea and add a small amount of sweetener to it, instead of buying the sugary versions at the store.

If you cut back slowly, eventually you’ll find that you don’t crave sugar as much and your old favorite foods will taste too sweet. Then you can start thinking of sweets in a healthier way—as a treat, rather than a regular part of your diet.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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