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How sugar affects your heart

sugar heart

An addictive white powder, otherwise known as sugar, sneaks into our diet everyday single day. Sometimes in the not-so-sneaky form of several chocolate bars but more subtly in foods such as ready meals and cereals.

The thing is, we’re allowed sugar, but just like everything in this wonderful world, we need to eat sugar as part of a balanced diet. Sugar comes in various forms but to look at things in a basic sense, the natural sugars found in fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy are great but the added sugars you find in everything else such as; cereals, fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits and most processed foods are really bad.

So bad in fact that Harvard University conducted a study on the American diet (which admittedly is a lot more tragic than the British diet but we’re not far behind) and found that eating too much sugar can have a serious impact on heart health.

According to results published in 2014, “Over the course of the 15-year study, people who got 17% to 21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared with those who consumed 8% of their calories as added sugar.” Which shows that the higher the intake of added sugar, the higher the risk for heart disease.

Why does sugar have such an impact on heart health?

Similarly to salt, it’s the knock-on effect from different organs that eventually takes its toll on the heart. High amounts of added sugar can bombard the liver in a similar way that alcohol does. This means that when it’s overloaded, the sugars are converted into fats. A build-up of these sugars can lead to fatty liver disease which puts you at major risk of diabetes, eventually resulting in a higher risk for heart disease.

Due to the extra strain that this excess fat and energy puts onto the arteries, you may also suffer from higher blood pressure, inflammation, fatty liver diseases and weight gain, all of which are contributory factors to heart disease.

How to cut down

We can get everything we need from real foods such as fruit and vegetables, we don’t actually need to eat any of the naughtier sugars. However, it’s really hard to avoid them completely and so it’s recommended you don’t consume more than 30g of sugar per day which is only around three biscuits or one fizzy drink.

You could start by trying to replace every day sugary items such as fruit squash with healthier alternatives. If you’re not sure you can cut back, you might find it easier to cut sugar out of your diet completely. Many well-known celebrities have joined the #iquitsugar movement in the last few years and boasted miraculous results. For example, Kate Hudson quit sugar after realising she was like an addict, needing that kick at 4pm every day. These days, Kate says she doesn’t even get an afternoon slump, her energy levels are up and she feels healthier and looks great off it.

You don’t have to make such an extreme change to your diet, but becoming conscious of your sugar eating habits and cutting back a little bit each day is a great way to start taking better care of your health. As long as you’re maintaining a balanced diet and exercising regularly, you can get away with the occasional sweet treats.

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