Sugar is Hurting our Hearts

Newsletter - Sugar Dangers- Feb15The health concerns of eating or drinking too much sugar are well documented. There is a strong link between sugar intake and a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and high blood pressure. Recently medical professionals have been raising even stronger warnings about the relationship between high blood sugar levels and increased heart disease as repeatedly documented by numerous studies. It is quite clear, increased sugar intake leads to a greater risk of dying of cardiovascular disease.

In a report commissioned by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization, a team of global experts identified the excessive consumption of sugar from snacks, processed foods, and drinks, as one of the major factors causing worldwide increases in cardiovascular diseases, along with cancer, diabetes, and obesity.  A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) – Internal Medicine found that the more added sugar you consume the higher your risk is of dying from heart disease. For people whose added sugar intake made up over 21% of their daily calories, their risk of death doubled. The fact that it appears to be completely independent of other factors – like weight, calories consumed, smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol level, and physical activity –indicates that there’s something specific about the relationship between sugar and the heart.

During the month of February FirstMed offers a special price on a cardiovascular risk assessment designed to give a basic result of your heart health and uncover possible risks which may require additional monitoring.

There are numerous possibilities to what sugar could be doing to increase the risk

  • Sugar has been shown to increase blood pressure, independent of other health problems it can trigger.
  • It increases unhealthy blood fats like triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, while decreasing “good” HDL cholesterol.
  • Excess sugar can trigger inflammation in the body.
  • High-sugar foods are also often high in calories leading to weight gain.

Unlike trans fats and salt, there is no upper limit to how much sugar food companies can add to their products; it is on a “generally recognized as safe” list. Therefore it is the individual’s responsibility to keep an eye on added sugar content of each (processed) food, which is not easy to track. Check the ingredient list for sugar and all its aliases. In general, the closer sugars are to the top of the list of ingredients, the more the food contains.

Here is a list of the many types of sugars you may see added to processed foods:

  • Corn sweetener or syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Syrup
  • Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)

Sugar content in common foods and drinks

To help you keep track of how much sugar you’re consuming we’ve listed some common everyday foods and drinks, together with their sugar content. Some of these may surprise you.

How much sugar is in a chocolate bar?

  • Milk chocolate bar – 44 g of sugar
  • Snickers bar – 57 g  of sugar
  • Milky Way bar – 58 g  of sugar
  • Marshmallows – 100 g  of sugar
  • Twix bar – 50.7 g  of sugar

With its high sugar content, chocolate should always be viewed as an occasional treat.

How much sugar do soft drinks contain?

  • Coca cola (355ml) – 39 g  of sugar
  • Red Bull (250ml) – 27 g  of sugar
  • Lemonade (250ml) – 25 g  of sugar
  • Orange Fanta (355ml) – 44 g of sugar
  • Dunkin Donuts Hot chocolate (295ml) – 28 g of sugar
  • Jamba Juice Fruit smoothie (500ml) – 52 g – 3.5 tablespoons of sugar!

How much sugar is in your breakfast cereal?  *(per 30 grams)

  • Cheerios – 1 g of  sugar
  • Corn Flakes  / Frosted Flakes – 2 g / 10 g  of sugar
  • Rice Krispies / Cocao Krispies – 4 g / 12 g  of sugar
  • Honey Nut Cheerios – 9 g of sugar
  • Shredded Wheat – 0.32 g sugar

How much sugar does fruit contain?  *(per 100 grams)

Fruits contain fructose. Fresh fruit have no “added sugar”, but as you can see below, their levels of sugar range from 1 teaspoon per 100 grams in cranberries to 4 teaspoons in grapes.

  • Bananas – 12 g of sugar
  • Apples – 10 g of sugar
  • Peaches – 8 g of sugar
  • Lemons – 2.5 g of sugar
  • Kiwifruit – 9 g of sugar
  • Oranges – 8 g of sugar
  • Strawberries – 4.9 g  of sugar
  • Tomatoes – 2.6 g of sugar

We can conclude that excess sugar is not only bad for our weight, our teeth and insulin level, but also has a direct effect to our heart. Since sugars often are hidden in processed foods, it is more difficult to keep its level to a minimum than just cutting it from our daily morning coffee.

Let’s eat heart-consciously!

This article appeared in our February, 2015 Newsletter. For further information about the online publication and to sign up, please click here.