Sugar: The Heart Health Threat
Studies prove added sugars can impact cardiovascular well-being on its own, regardless of other health concerns like obesity and diabetes.
According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, people who consumed more than 21% of their daily calories from added sugars had twice the risk of death from heart disease, compared to those who consumed less than 10% of calories from added sugars. You’ll be surprised to know that the difference between over 21% and under 10% is as simple as a shake from a drive-thru. For Americans, approximately 37% of added sugar in daily consumption comes from sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas and juices.
It’s important to note that the findings were consistent across age groups, sex, physical-activity levels, weights and other dietary habits. So when it comes to heart health and added sugar intake we’re all on the same playing field.
The trouble with sugar is that when it’s ingested your body reacts by releasing insulin, and when this spike is occurring continuously it starts to take a toll on the lining of your blood vessels and arterial walls, leaving them inflamed. With this fragile tissue in a constant inflammatory state, heart health plummets.
Crack the Labeling Code
So, let’s say you’re on-board and ready to cut some sugar from your diet. There are a few things you should know, and reading labels is the most important!
Sugar pseudonyms are more common than you might think, so when reading a label watch for: barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, cane or date sugar, cane-juice crystals, pure sugar cane juice, evaporated cane juice, dried cane juice, caramel, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), dextran, diastaste, fruit juice or concentrate, golden sugar or syrup, raw sugar, refiner’s syrup, sorghum, turbinado sugar, yellow sugar, invert sugar, malt syrup, rice syrup, maltodextrin, and all ingredients ending in “-ose” such as sucrose, dextrose, glucose, maltose, lactose, ethyl maltose, fructose, and levulose. Oh, and that also means agave. Agave, which is naturally sweeter than sugar, is also linked to cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes and miscarriage during pregnancy.
“No Sugar Added” can only be used if no sugar, or sugar-containing ingredients, were used during the processing of the product, according to the FDA’s regulated rules. However, there might be sugar in the food that occurs naturally. For example, fruit juice can be labeled “no sugar added” but will contain loads of sugar because fructose—a type of sugar— is naturally occurring in fruit. Not to worry! Sugars naturally occurring in raw foods like fruit are OK as long as you’re eating the fibrous flesh that goes with it. These are the sugars our bodies were meant to metabolize and utilize.
“Sugar Free” labeled products contain less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving, according to the FDA guidelines. However, these products often contain high amounts of artificial sweeteners to fill the void left by removing sugar. Common artificial sweeteners are aspartame, sucralose, and saccharine. Your body processes these ingredients differently, and with trouble I might add, because they’re mostly man-made and not meant to be ingested or metabolized.
The Cycle of Sugar
One thing most people don’t realize about sugar is that it begs the old question, “the chicken or the egg”–or in this case–the craving or the sugar consumption. Too much sugar in your system can cause Candida to grow out of control, and this normally harmless yeast can easily become an invasive resident. Candida needs sugar to reproduce, so the more sugar (and carbohydrates) you eat, the more you will crave it. While everybody knows your waistline suffers, studies state that your heart will too. If you think Candida may be behind your sweet tooth, you may consider getting back into balance with a formula like the homeopathic Y-C Cleanse.
In this day and age, when heart-related diet concerns are so focused on other things like saturated fats—despite new research eliminating it as a threat— we can’t help but see how sugar snuck in the backdoor and is robbing us of our health. With our attentions averted elsewhere, sugar is ravaging our physical well-being in the form of obesity, diabetes, poor dental health, digestive challenges, and now heart health. It’s clear the safest way to dodge added sugar is to enjoy whole foods with little or no processing.