Sugar and Heart Disease

by Dr. Jason Barker February 11, 2014

Sugar and Heart Disease

Sugar is emerging as the new culprit in heart disease.

For years we’ve been told that fat and cholesterol cause heart disease. Yet, despite the fact we’ve removed much of the fat from our foods – think about it – everything seems to be low fat today- people are more obese than ever and heart disease is still on the rise.

New research is showing how sugar, and not necessarily fat, is killing us. In fact, just this week the largest study of its kind to date shows just how dangerous sugar is for our hearts.

This new study of more than 40,000 people showed that people with the highest intake of sugar had four times the risk of heart attack compared to people with the lowest sugar intake. In other words, that’s a 400% increase!  Just a daily 20-ounce soda (65 grams of sugar) will raise your risk of a heart attack by nearly 30%.

Unfortunately, most people don’t even know they’re being ‘dosed’ with sugar. Did you know that some tomato sauces have more sugar than a serving of Oreo cookies? Or that most fruit yogurts have as much sugar as a 12-ounce soda? Most cereals, including those touting themselves as ‘healthy’ and ‘whole grain’ are comprised of 75% sugar? Even salad dressings and bread contain sugar!

Of course the biggest culprits are sugary beverages such as sodas, juices, teas, coffees and sports drinks.  37% of a person’s sugar intake may come from soda alone!

The average American eats nearly 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of white flour each year! White flour acts just like sugar in our bodies – it’s rapidly digested into sugar. Think of bagels, breads, pastas or other snack foods – these are all typically made of flour.

How Does Sugar Cause Heart Disease?

When we eat sugar, we release the hormone insulin to process it.  When we consume too much sugar, we release a lot of insulin. Soon our cells stop listening to insulin’s signal and we become ‘insulin resistant’. Once this happens, our triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol rise, while our HDL (good) cholesterol falls. Blood pressure goes up, as does inflammation. It’s a deadly mix for heart disease.

Preventing Heart Disease

The evidence is stacking up against sugar. In the past we’ve been warned that it isn’t healthy because it will cause weight gain. But now we’re starting to understand how damaging it is to our hearts as well.  As a healthy person you probably try to avoid sugar, but that may not be enough given the findings from this latest study. Avoiding sugary foods on a regular basis may be one of the best things you can do for your heart over the long term.

How to Avoid Sugars:

More and more evidence shows that sugar is biologically addicting. This is why we have such a hard time resisting it. Our bodies perceive sugar as a quick source of energy – this is one reason why we’re attracted to it. But if we increase the nutrient density of our foods, we’ll crave less sugar.

Easy Ways To Avoid Hidden Sugars:

1. Drink water and herbal tea for your fluid intake.

2. If you like coffee, stick with just regular brewed coffee. All of those ‘special’ drinks you buy the coffee shop are loaded with sugar.

3. Cut juice out. Juice is nothing more than fruit flavored sugar water. You won’t be missing anything healthy by cutting juice out of your diet. You can still eat fruit, however.

4. Read the labels, and know the many names used for sugar. Here are just a few: fructose, glucose, monosaccharides, lactose, maltose, sucrose, raw sugar, brown sugar, beet sugar, cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, molasses, turbinado, maple syrup, sugar cane syrup, cane juice, invert sugar, malt syrup, high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup solids.

5. Get rid of the cereal. I challenge you to read the label on your box of ‘healthy’ cereal. Chances are your ‘whole grain oaty bits’ have as much sugar per serving as a sugary kid cereal. Make some oatmeal or other cooked grain cereal with some protein and fruit instead.

6. Increase your protein and vegetables at each meal. Both of these foods contain nutrients that properly fuel your body. The more nutritious meals you eat, the less you’ll crave sugar.

Just by taking a few steps you can cut a lot of sugar out of your diet, doing your heart a huge favor.

Dr. Jason Barker
Dr. Jason Barker


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