Most people know that eating too much sugar may lead to chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Excessive sugar intake has also been linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Alzheimer's Disease, and fatty liver disease. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found that eating too much sugar may increase the risk of heart disease, the top chronic disease killer of Americans. It's important to note that sugar in and of itself is not the problem because many natural healthy foods such as fruit contain sugar called fructose. Fruit also contains fiber and nutrients which lessen the impact sugar has on the body.
The main issue brought into focus with this study is the increased risk of heart disease for those Americans who eat food containing too much added sugar. Most of the processed foods we eat contain added sugar to improve flavor and texture. The biggest culprit by far is soda. One 12-oz can of soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar amounting to 140 calories! What harm can drinking just one can of soda have on your health? Plenty. Especially if you drink a can of soda daily--it all adds up over time and can have a deleterious effect on your health before you know it. Other foods to watch out for include baked goods such as cakes, pies, and cookies as well as fruit drinks, candy, yogurt with added fruit, and ice cream.
So what is a healthy amount of sugar you can eat without increasing your risk of heart disease? The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends less than 25% of your daily caloric intake should come from added sugar. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends less than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugar. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends men should eat less than 150 calories (nine teaspoons) and women should eat less than 100 calories (six teaspoons) daily from added sugar. With all of these conflicting recommendations, what guideline should we follow? Nearly three out of four Americans eat more than 10% of their daily calories from added sugar while 10% consume about a quarter or more of their calories from added sugar. This study found that Americans who get about 15% of their calories from added sugar had almost a 20% increased risk of heart disease compared to diets containing little or no added sugar. The study also found that those who ate from 17 to 21% of their calories from added sugar had almost a 40% increased risk of heart disease. Finally, those who ate more than 21% of their calories from added sugar had almost an 80% increased risk (!) of heart disease. So clearly one should eat no more than 15% of their calories from added sugar (300 calories in a 2000-calorie diet) to lessen the risk (i.e., one in five chance) of incurring heart disease.
How can you track the amount of added sugar you're eating? Simply read the nutrition labels of foods and pay attention to words with the suffix -ose. Examples include fructose, maltose and sucrose. Also be aware of foods which contain any kind of syrup (e.g., corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, etc.). Evaporated cane juice (which is not a juice) is sugar cane juice that has been processed to allow for crystallization. The end result after the processing of evaporated cane juice is a similar composition to regular white sugar. Your body cannot distinguish between raw cane crystals, dehydrated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, molasses, malt syrup, or agave syrup--they are all essentially sugar and are metabolized the same.
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."
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I'm a personal trainer who loves to help others fulfill their health and fitness goals. I consider myself a bodybuilder in that I live the lifestyle of eating healthy food, working out regularly, and sculpting my body.