Sugar sours hearts

Sugar is getting a lot of bad press lately. A report in the journal Nature in February 2012, suggested that when overconsumed, sugar is as dangerous as alcohol or tobacco. Now a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health has shown sugar added to drinks can be bad news for the heart.

To investigate how sugar affects the hearts of men, the researchers analysed data on 42 883 males taking part in the “Health Professionals Follow Up Study”. In this study the men completed a questionnaire every two years between 1986 and 2008. The questions related to habits and diet. Additionally, at the beginning, middle, and end of the study blood samples were taken. The majority of the men were aged between 40 and 75 and were in health-related jobs.

The analysis showed that men who drank one 350ml sugar-loaded drink each day increased their risk of heart disease by twenty per cent compared to men who drank sugary drinks only once or twice a week. Those men who drank sugary drinks daily showed as having higher c-reactive protein levels (indicating more inflammation in their body), higher triglycerides (blood fats), and lower levels of good HDL-cholesterol.

Although this study was done on men results from the 2009 Nurse’s Health Study showed essentially the same results.

The generally accepted recommendation from health bodies is that sugar should never exceed half of your discretionary daily kilojoules, that is, the kilojoules that you consume after your daily nutrient requirements are met. For women that means about 400 kilojoules and for men around 600 kilojoules. In reality though, you should really train your palate to need as little sugar as possible.

The bottom line of all that is that all that sweetens isn’t necessarily sweet, and that “sweetheart” might be a death threat rather than an endearment.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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