Is Your Sweet Tooth Harming Your Heart?
You can't sugarcoat this fact: Americans are eating too much sugar. We eat about 18 teaspoons of the sweetener every day. Although it tastes good, sugar isn't very nutritious. What's more, your sweet tooth may be bad for your heart.
A sugar surplus
In a recent study, researchers linked the amount of sugar eaten to a risk for death from heart disease. They looked at 3 national health surveys spanning more than 20 years. From the surveys, they were able to estimate how much sugar more than 31,000 people ate. They then cross-referenced those results with a database that tracked who died and their cause of death.
For 7 out of 10 adults, more than 10% of their daily calories came from sugar. These people had a 30% greater risk of dying from heart disease. That chance tripled for those who ate the most sugar, which was more than 25% of daily calories. The main dietary culprit: sugar-sweetened drinks like soda.
How might too much sugar bring about heart problems? Past studies have connected a sugar surplus to diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. These conditions are leading causes of heart disease.
Sugar can be found naturally in fruit and milk. In these foods, it fuels the body. But most of the sugar you eat is added. It's the white crystals you stir into your coffee. Or the sweet stuff put in foods like brownies and soda when they are made.
These so-called added sugars give you lots of calories. But they don't deliver any nutrition. The main sources of sugar in the American diet are soda, candy, baked goods, fruit drinks, and dairy desserts like ice cream.
Health experts don't agree on an upper sugar limit. The national dietary guidelines recommend cutting added sugars and fats to no more than 5% to 15% of your diet. The American Heart Association is more precise. It says: No more than 100 calories—or 6 teaspoons—a day for women and 150 calories—or 9 teaspoons—for men.
Cutting Back on Added Sugars
You’ll protect more than your heart if you cut down on added sugars. You’ll prevent tooth decay and weight gain. Below are some tips that may help:
For more ways to identify added sugars in your favorite foods, visit the American Heart Association's website.
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