Keeping a normal weight is not a guarantee that you’re healthy. For instance, if you’re of normal weight and yet to eat a sugar-rich diet, you are still at risk of dying of heart disease.
According to a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, added sugars make up at least 10 percent of the daily calorie intake of the average American; and 1 in 10 people get a quarter of their calorie intake from added sugar.
The study, which took 15 years to conduct elucidated the connection between added sugar and heart disease: the participants who took in 25% or more of their daily calories via sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who included less than 10% of added sugar in their diets.
The study shows the clear relationship of added sugar to heart disease regardless of a person’s weight, age, sex, physical activity level, and BMI.
The biggest sources of added sugar are sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks. These products account for more than a third of the added sugar America consumes. The following are also culprits: cookies, cakes, candies, pastries, ice cream, frozen yogurt, and cereals.
Sugar delivers empty calories, lacking in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and is one of the main causes of weight gain and cavities.
Don’t think that eating the same amount of sugar with fruits and veggies will make the consumption OK. The study also measured the participants’ Healthy Eating Index and found that despite their Healthy Eating Index scores, those who ate more sugar still had higher cardiovascular mortality.
Exactly how much sugar is harmful to the heart isn’t clear.
There are federal guidelines for specific limits on the amount of salt and fat we eat, but none exists for sugar.
In 2002, the Institute of Medicine recommended less than 25% of total calories intake for added sugar. But that advice is outdated and was published before the potentially dangerous health effects of sugar were uncovered, says Dr. Teresa Fung, adjunct professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
The American Heart Association’s recommendation that women consume less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, and for men to consume less than 9 teaspoons per day.
A warning: a 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar, which puts any man and woman over the recommended daily limit.
Dr. Fung advises opting for a fruit-based dessert instead so you can get fiber out of it. And if you’re craving for that sweet taste, you can also mix a little fruit juice with water as a replacement.
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