Sugar places your heart at risk

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

Sugar is bad for everybody’s health. Even if you are slim and active, sugar can still harm your heart eventually. A recent study has shown that just 3 months of a high sugar diet alters fat metabolism in your body in a way that raises heart disease risk. The research was conducted by a team from the University of Surrey in the UK, and their findings were published in the journal Clinical Science.

Interestingly, the researchers discovered that your liver processes fats differently if you eat a high sugar diet. Men who were in overall good health developed higher levels of bad fats in their blood and liver after consuming a high sugar diet for 3 months. This happens even if a person doesn’t gain weight on the diet. The fat profile in the liver was consistent with non alcoholic fatty liver disease, and the men would likely have developed a fatty liver if the research study went on for longer. Fatty liver affects between 30 and 40 percent of people in most parts of the world, and is most common in people with obesity or type 2 diabetes. Not everyone with a fatty liver or type 2 diabetes is overweight though. You can look outwardly slim and still have a fatty liver. This is particularly common in people who are not Caucasians. Fatty liver raises the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Most people who have a fatty liver don’t end up dying from a liver disease. They die from a heart attack or stroke.

In this particular study, two groups of men were researched. They both consumed the same number of daily calories, except in the high sugar diet, sugar comprised 26 percent of daily calories, while in the low sugar diet it comprised 6 percent. So even if you don’t overeat, sugar in your diet is bad for your blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides) and liver fat.

Most people think that if you eat too much fat you’ll end up with fat clogging your arteries and liver. The truth is heart disease and fatty liver are far more complicated than that. Saturated fat has very little effect on overall cholesterol levels in most people, and it even has the ability to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol. Sugar on the other hand is capable of causing a range of metabolic disturbances that lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In particular, sugar, high carbohydrate foods and alcohol can raise triglyceride levels. Raised triglycerides are usually an indicator of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can lead to high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Each person has a different tolerance level for carbohydrate and sugar; some people can get away with eating more of it and not suffering the consequences for a longer period of time. If you have a family history of type 2 diabetes or if there are overweight people in your family, your tolerance for carbohydrate will usually be lower. Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have a low tolerance for carbohydrate in their diet. As you get older, it will be lower.

For more information about protecting your heart and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, see our book Cholesterol: The Real Truth.

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