Sweet Heart
Sunday, April 25, 2010
LifeTime WeightLoss in Metabolism, Tom Nikkola, heart disease, heart health, undefined

Written by Tom Nikkola - Director of Nutrition & Weight Management

The sugar industry took another hit this past week. Another study provides evidence of sugar consumption to negatively impact our health. The study, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that increasing sugar intake may lower HDL cholesterol levels and raise triglycerides, both important markers of heart disease risk.(1) In the study, the diets of over 6000 participants were reviewed. It showed that the average American gets 16% of their daily calories from sugar, or 359 calories. That’s about 90 grams of sugar, well above the 25 grams encouraged by the American Heart Association. Higher levels of sugar intake usually came from soda and other sweetened beverages for those in the study. The focus on high fructose corn syrup in recent years has allowed sugar to remain a little more under the radar, but this study did not show a difference between high fructose corn syrup and regular sugar (sucrose).

More than Heart Disease Risk

This is not the first study to show the serious effects of eating too much sugar, but it seems to be one that has captured more media attention than studies in the past. Other studies have shown that unnecessary sugar consumption can be bad news for our health.

A 2009 showed that a diet of higher glycemic foods increased the risk of Parkinson’s disease.(2) High glycemic foods raise blood-sugar levels faster, which also causes a faster rise in insulin. Though sugar is high-glycemic, other processed foods in our diet are as well.

Excess sugar consumption is also associated with insulin resistance.(3) Insulin resistance is the reduced ability to handle glucose, or blood sugar, which is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Sugar consumption, combined with low magnesium levels is associated with increased inflammation and risk of metabolic syndrome.(4) Inflammation itself has been shown to increase the likelihood of developing insulin resistance. Chronic inflammation may also lead to increased risk of heart disease and other degenerative diseases.

Of course, there’s also the fact that carbohydrate intake increases insulin, and insulin increases fat storage and decreases fat burning which may lead to weight gain, or at the very least, lack of ability to decrease fat stores. That’s a large part of the reason excess sugar consumption may lead to obesity.(5) To reinforce how much of an impact sugar has on the body, another study showed that people who drink two or more sweetened drinks a week have a higher risk of pancreatic cancer.(6) Though the cancer is not common, it makes sense that the pancreas would be put at risk since the pancreas is what has to secrete insulin whenever carbohydrates are consumed. The more carbohydrates one consumes, the harder the pancreas has to work.

There is even some evidence that shows over-consumption of sugar may lead to increased rate of aging. By-products of sugar consumption are the likely causes of this increased rate of aging, and the more sugar one consumes, the more by-products are produced.(7)


After years of hearing that sugar is “okay in moderation,” it may be time to rethink that idea. The health risks from consuming excess sugar are serious. Added sugars are prevalent throughout the Standard American Diet, especially in processed foods. Soda and candy are easy foods to eliminate from the diet to reduce sugar intake, but be sure to check labels and choose foods with lower sugar intake. The easiest way to get rid of extra sugar is to eat whole foods and reduce consumption of processed foods. Also, remember that all carbohydrate turns to sugar. Although the news today is more about actual sugar intake, as more research unfolds, don’t be surprised if similar results are found for other high-carbohydrate foods. Next time you’re considering a sugar-heavy snack or dessert, remember what the studies above are telling us. Grab some berries, make a protein shake or have some dark chocolate instead.


  1. Welsh J, Sharma A, Abramson J, Vaccarino V, Gillespie C, Vos M. Caloric Sweetener Consumption and Dyslipidemia Among US Adults. JAMA. 2010;303(15):1490-1497
  2. Murakami K, et al. Dietary glycemic index is inversely associated with the risk of Parkinson’s disease: A case-control study in Japan. Nutrition. 2010;25(5)515-521
  3. Yoshida M, McKeown NM, Rogers G, Meigs JB, Saitzman E, D’Agostino R, Jacques PF. Surrogate markers of insulin resistance are associated with consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and fruit juice in middle and older-aged adults. J Nutr. 2007;137(9):2121-7
  4. Rayssiguier Y, Guex E, Nowacki W, Rock E, Mazur A. High fructose consumption combined with low dietary magnesium may increase the incidence of the metabolic syndrome by inducing inflammation. Magnes Res. 2006;19(4):237-43
  5. Babey S, Jones M, Yu H, Goldstein H. Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its Link to Obesity in California. UCLA. September 2009
  6. Reuters. Study links sugar soda to pancreas cancer. msnbc online article. Feb 9, 2010 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35294516/ns/health-cancer
  7. University of Montreal. Not So Sweet: Over-Consumption of Sugar Linked To Aging. ScienceDaily 9 March 2009

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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