Free Sugar Can Harm Heart Health

We know that most of our customers have blood sugar concerns and do their best to avoid sugar whenever possible. The problem is that sugar is heavily present in processed foods. Trying to shun it can be exhausting. We can become complacent. Having added reasons to avoid it can help strengthen our resolve to stick to our health goals.

A new study found that a diet high in free sugars raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. Free sugar is the sugar added to processed foods, sodas, fruit juice and syrups. Sugars that occur naturally within fruits and vegetables are not free sugars and were not studied.

The study tracked more than 110,000 people between the ages of 37 and 73 for approximately nine years. They all lived in the UK. The researchers found that every five percent increase of calories from free sugar was linked to a six percent higher risk of heart disease and a 10 percent higher risk of stroke.

Our research demonstrates the importance of considering the type and source of sugars consumed when assessing the associations between sugar and cardiovascular health,” Oxford Population Health researcher Rebecca Kelly said. “Replacing free sugars with non-free sugars, such as those naturally occurring in whole fruits and vegetables, combined with a higher fiber intake may help protect against cardiovascular disease.”

People who ate 95 grams of free sugar daily, or 18 percent of their daily calories, were at the highest risk. The U.S. health guidelines say that added sugar should account for less than 10 percent of a person’s daily calories.

The researchers found that eating five grams of fiber daily was linked to a four percent lower risk of heart disease. By eating less sugar and more fiber, people may be able to boost their health. As complex carbs are high in fiber and simple carbs are low in sugar, picking the right types of start is essential for a nutritious diet. Fruits and vegetables, while filled with sugar, are all rich in fiber. The plant fiber slows the absorption of the sugar and can aid heart health.

Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard Univ., was not involved in the study. Reviewing it, he observed, “What’s really important for overall general health and well-being is that we’re consuming carbohydrates that are rich in whole grains [while] minimizing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, as well any kind of confectionary products that have added sugars.”

This study provides much needed nuance to public health discussions about the health effects of dietary carbohydrates,” said Dr. Maya Adam, director of Health Media Innovation and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Stanford Univ. Adam wasn’t involved in the study. “The main takeaways are that all carbs are not created equal.”

Cutting back on juice, soda and processed foods and increasing your consumption of fruit and vegetables may help you keep your diet just as sweet but significantly improve your blood sugar and heart health.  

Banner image: Karolina Grabowska via Pexels

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