Why You Should Reduce Your Sugar Intake | Revere Health

Why You Should Reduce Your Sugar Intake

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most of the sugar we consume is in processed and restaurant foods. The CDC and the American Heart Association’s current guidelines on added sugar intake are:

  1. Women: 100 calories (about 6 tsp/24 grams of sugar) per day
  2. Men: 150 calories (about 9 tsp/36 grams of sugar) per day

Despite the guidelines, many Americans exceed the recommended amount. The increase of sugar in many of our foods have medical experts concerned. Dr. Arash Tirandaz from the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, advises his patients that decreasing their sugar intake can lead to drastic improvement in their health. He says, “Too much sugar can cause insulin resistance, obesity and diabetes.”

Paul Breslin, a geneticist/biologist at the State University of New Jersey, says that sugar is hard to shake because it behaves like a narcotic. “Ultimately whatever you eat ends up in your blood, and our body wants the blood levels for everything—from carbon dioxide to oxygen to salt and potassium and lipids and glucose—to be constant.”

In the March-April issue of Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases journal, one study reported that added sugar intake may pose a greater risk of heart disease than saturated fat. Dr. James J. DiNicolantonio, of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute and co-author of the study, said, “After a thorough analysis of the evidence, it seems appropriate to recommend dietary guidelines shift focus away from recommendations to reduce saturated fat and towards recommendations to avoid added sugars.” High-sugar diets can increase the risk of heart disease and other issues such as elevated levels of glucose and uric acid, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, leptin resistance, and altered platelet function.

The Sugar Detraction

In September of 2016, Dr. Christine Kearns from the University of California-San Francisco—along with other researchers—published findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.  They found that the sugar industry sponsored Harvard scientists in the 1960s to highlight the danger of saturated fat, and drive focus away from the danger of sugar. During that time, the rate of heart disease-related deaths in the United States had reached its peak and researchers were divided on whether sugar or fat was the primary cause. The sugar industry did not like that findings were showing sugar as being linked to heart disease. As a result, a sugar research company paid Harvard scientists $6,500 (about $50,000 today) to publish a study about the harm of saturated fats to detract from the harm of sugar. The Harvard scientists published their findings in July 1967, and claimed that dietary fats were the primary cause of heart disease, rather than sugar.

The 1967 review was published in the influential New England Journal of Medicine, and painted saturated fats as the big enemy of heart disease. This played a huge role in regulating the standards of a low-fat diet, giving no regard to regulating sugar intake, and hindered development of research on sugar and heart disease. Despite the growing knowledge of the sugar danger, many health policies remain inconsistent in pointing out the risks of consuming added sugar and its role in heart disease.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the mandatory conflict of interest disclosure was implemented. Even though food companies are supposed to be transparent in their research activities—including funding and industry relationships—manipulative research still continues today.

Sugar Sells

Sugar makes popular food and drinks more appealing—or rather more addictive—and many people may not realize just how much sugar is in these products. Product labels are designed to sell. Many products use colorful and highlighted words such as “natural,” “10 percent more,” “now with more fiber,” “low-fat” and “fat-free”; but what they’re not telling you in most cases is that they have increased other areas—like sugar—to bring back flavor that was lost. Sugar comes in many different forms, with many different names, so be wary when you shop for food if you are trying to reduce your sugar intake. 

Examples include:

  • agave nectar
  • brown sugar
  • cane crystals
  • cane sugar
  • corn sweetener
  • corn syrup
  • crystalline fructose
  • dextrose
  • evaporated cane juice
  • fructose
  • fruit juice concentrates
  • glucose
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • lactose
  • maltose
  • malt syrup
  • molasses
  • raw sugar
  • sucrose

Tips for Reducing Sugar

  1. 1. Drink water instead of sugary sodas, sports drinks and blended coffee beverages.
  2. 2. If you drink fruit juice, make sure it’s 100 percent fruit juice (no added sugar). Or simply eat the fruit instead of drinking the juice.
  3. 3. Skip non-nutritious cereals (like sugary/frosted) and remember: cereals that seem healthy also can contain added sugar.
  4. 4. Buy reduced-sugar options of syrups, jams/jellies and preserves. Also, watch out for condiments; salad dressings and ketchup have added sugar.
  5. 5. Choose fresh fruit for dessert instead of cakes, pies, cookies, ice cream and candy.
  6. 6. If you buy canned fruit, choose ones packed in water or juice, not syrup.

Making it Work

Make it a family goal to reduce your sugar intake. It can be tough at first to wean kids (and yourself) off sugar, but here are a few tips to help make it easier:

  • Empower: allow kids to pick their own cereal with 5 grams of sugar or less (per serving). Let them help choose healthy recipes and prepare the food as well.
  • Make your own: to avoid the excess sugar in pre-prepared food and restaurant food, make your own food from scratch, such as tomato sauce. It takes about five minutes to stir a can of whole or chopped tomatoes with sautéed onion, garlic and spices.
  • Compromise: if cutting out sugar cold turkey seems intimidating and you need a more gradual approach, consider compromising on having favorite treats once in awhile to help you in the process. Remember: don’t let food turn into a reward!

About The Author—Cassidy Silversmith

Cassidy Silversmith graduated from Utah Valley University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education. In 2013, she went on to become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). She currently works in the Wellness Department as a Wellness Assistant

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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