The bottom line is this: people who consume more added sugars have a higher risk of death from heart disease. It used to be thought that it was the calories in sugar that added up and led to obesity, and then heart disease followed that, but studies now show added sugars, especially from fructose, can cause heart disease, no matter what size you are.
The average American consumes 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day! The recommended amount for women is 6 teaspoons (25 grams), and for men 9 teaspoons (38 grams). Most of these added sugars are coming from sugary beverages as well as treats like candy and ice cream.
A new trend in sugar intake are foods such as agave nectar, maple syrup, and honey. These foods are very high in fructose, which is a single molecule that requires no digestive breakdown in the gut. Fructose is mainly processed in the liver, but the liver isn’t made to digest a lot of fructose. When the liver has to process too much fructose, cell damage can occur, in turn contributing to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In contrast, table sugar, sucrose, is made of two chemically linked molecules, fructose and glucose, which are broken apart during digestion. Both fructose and sucrose should be consumed in moderation.
Although fructose is found in whole fruits and vegetables, it does not pose the same health risk because it is also packed with fiber, water, phytochemicals, and other valuable nutrients. When choosing foods, try to choose those low in sugar, especially pure fruits and veggies, your heart will think it’s a treat!
Adapted from Environmental Nutrition, May 2016