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Can Added Sugar Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease?

Without even realizing it, you might be consuming way too much added sugar. It's easy to do, since added sugar can be found in almost everything.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), on average, Americans are consuming 156 pounds of added sugar each year. This is a 39 percent increase since the 1950s.
Not only is added sugar bad for your waistline, but it can also can contribute to obesity, mood swings, diabetes, and heart trouble.

In fact, according to Harvard Health Publications back in 2014, one in 10 people get one-fourth of their daily calories from added sugar. The study was conducted over a 15-year period and showed that those people with one-fourth of their calories from sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease compared with those patients who had 10 percent or less of their daily calories from added sugar.

What can you do if you're trying to watch your sugar intake?

Dr. Mike discusses a recent study on sugar and how it can increase your risk of heart disease.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: April 1, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

Living longer and staying healthier. It's Healthy Talk with Dr. Michael Smith, MD. Here's your host, Dr. Mike:

DR MIKE: Can added sugar increase your risk of heart disease? Well, according to some new research, the answer is "yes". I'm going to read this from a report from Harvard Health Publications. Now, before I go into the report, interestingly, I just saw this on, gosh, I want to say it was CNN, maybe. One of the evening news things. I think it was CNN a couple of days ago. Alright. So, here it is:

Eighty percent of processed foods now contain added sugar and Americans are getting 60% of their total calories from processed foods.

What? That's crazy. So, that means, is if I just break it up into shopping in a grocery store, we spend 60% of our time in the aisles with the pre-packed stuff, in the middle, and we're not shopping in the outside aisles where the fresh foods are. I mean, that's just not right. We've got to change this. It starts with me. It starts with you. So, 80% of processed foods now contain added sugar and 60% of our total daily calories are coming from processed food. So, we're getting a lot of added sugar. Let me just go to this report. Again, it's from Harvard Health Publications. I think it was last month.

Added sugar makes up at least 10% of the calories the average American ingests in a day. One in ten people get ¼ of their daily calories from added sugar. A 15-year study published in 2014 by the University of Iowa hospitals and clinics showed that people with ¼ of their daily calories coming from added sugar were more likely—were twice as likely—to die from heart disease compared with those patients who had 10% or less of their daily calories coming from added sugar.

More than twice as likely to die from heart disease if you're getting a quarter of your calories from added sugar, which we are. Which is one in ten—ten percent of Americans. I think that's a conservative number, to be honest with you. I think it's a lot higher than that. We already know the issues with sugar in general, right? I mean, if you get too much sugar and you don't burn it, it stores as fat. So, we already know there's a sugar to abnormal lipid profile and weight gain thing. We already know that connection but now we're actually linking it directly to heart health, right? I mean, think of it. It's empty calories. Sugar, I mean, it tastes good. We have a sweet tooth in this country, obviously, which is why all of these processed food manufacturers are adding sugar to it because it sells more. So, don't blame them. It's our fault. They're just doing what we want. You can make an argument that they created this.

I know some of my friends in the alternative industry talk about how it was a conspiracy that food manufacturers were adding sugar because they knew sugar was addicting and eventually we would just crave it. I don't know. The bottom line is, we've just got to stop. We need to start eating nutrient rich calories and not empty calories. There's no fiber, there's no vitamins, there's no minerals, there's no nutrients in sugar. A little bit of sugar is not going to hurt you, but when you're getting ¼ of your daily calories from added sugar, that's the issue and that's the link to heart disease.

Oh, by the way, I did a whole show on sugary beverages, didn't I? A whole show on the Big Gulps. Carbonated, sugary beverages or sugary beverages of any kind, carbonated or not, linked to blood pressure issues, cholesterol issues. Right there, there are heart disease risk factors.

Now, let's make sure we understand that there are natural sugars and then there are added sugars, right? So, the natural sugars, you can find them in milk and fruit. When you consume those natural sugars, you're consuming other nutrients with it. So, you're getting some soluble fibers which help to control how much of the sugars actually get into your blood stream. It's the added sugar, the processed sugar, the crystalized sugar that there are no nutrients, no fiber that comes right in, gets right into your blood stream. You spike your blood sugar, you spike your insulin and you become this metabolic time bomb ready to happen.

Packaged food now, does, in some cases, contain some of the natural sugars, which is good, but they're just adding it in. I think it's becoming more and more important that we understand food labels, right? Many processed foods contain added sugar under different names. Usually, you want to look for anything that ends in "ose" like maltose, sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, corn sweetener, syrup, fruit juice concentrates. That's all still just added sugar and they're doing it because when they add that sugar, you buy more of it and you eat more of it and you continue to buy more of it and their profits go up.

According to the American Heart Association, the majority of added sugar is found in soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, milk products and other grains. They add sugar to bread now. I had a list of some of the most common products that we're buying. Carbonated soda, a 12-ounce can is about 132 calories of just pure sugar. Have you ever thought about that? Any fruit in a can, especially if there's syrup, right? A cup of that could be upwards of 120 calories of just pure sugar.

How about the non-fat varieties of food that we thought were safe and which we now know is not necessarily the case. Non-fat fruit yogurt is very popular and all over commercials. That's close to 100 calories of just sugar. I mean, think about that. Cereals, kids' cereals. My word! Loaded with added sugars. Loaded with 50, 60, 70, 80 calories of just pure added sugar in those cereals. No. No. No. No more. There's a whole other list of things here. I'm not going to go through this.

According to Harvard Health Publications, sodas, energy drinks and sport drinks account for more than 1/3 of the added sugar consumed by our nation. So, that's sodas, energy drinks and sport drinks. So, okay. You might think, "Okay. I'm just going to do the diet varieties." Come on, now. We've talked about that enough. The diet varieties could be worse. I mean, they still want it sweet because they know you're only going to buy things that are sweet, so what do they do? They add the artificial gunk into it, right? The artificial stuff might be worse. As a matter of fact, I answered a listener question recently on the zero calorie energy drinks. Of course, that's a myth. There's no such thing as energy from zero calories. I mean, you get energy from calories.

Of course, I think I used—not to pick on Red Bull—but they have the Red Bull Zero something. I don't even remember the name. I don't drink the stuff. I really don't remember the name, but I went online. I looked at what was in there. It basically is water and miniscule amounts of B vitamins, a lot of caffeine and, of course, the artificial sweeteners. So, the alternative is not the diet versions. Please let me restate that. The alternative to sodas and energy drinks and sport drinks is not the diet versions or the low fat versions. That's just more sugar and artificial stuff.

The alternative is water, teas, fresh food, shopping on the outside aisles of your grocery stores. We all need to do better, me included. What I'm telling you right now, I need to do a better job. I'm speaking to myself as well.

The American Heart Association recommends less than 100 calories of added sugar a day. There you go. This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.