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Added Sugar Makes the Standard American Diet Dangerous

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Sugar may be an unexpected contributor to death from heart disease. For decades, Americans were told to reduce the amount of fat in their diets. Food companies compensated for the loss of flavor in low-fat foods by adding sugar. As a consequence, over the last several decades sugar consumption has increased substantially.

Now, an epidemiological study called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has found a higher risk of death from heart attack or stroke in high sugar consumers. People who consumed 21% or more of their calories from sugar were twice as likely to die as people who only got about 8% of their calories from sugar added to foods.

Sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts like cookies, cake and ice cream, along with candy and fruit drinks, were the primary sources of added sugar. Although it is not clear how sugar kills, there is growing evidence that multiple mechanisms are in play. Weight gain, fatty liver and high triglycerides may all contribute to inflammation, a common denominator in chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer and heart disease.

[JAMA Internal Medicine, April 1, 2014]

Several of our most popular radio shows have informed listeners about the trouble with too much sugar. You may be interested in our hour-long interview with Dr. Robert Lustig (Sugar Hazards), or The Blood Sugar Solution with Dr. Mark Hyman. We have also discussed dietary questions with diabetes experts Dr. Richard Bernstein and Dr. Bill Polansky. Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller and Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian reviewed the benefits of following a low glycemic index diet and how to do that.

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3 Comments

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I find a teaspoon of honey added to a Sage infusion and used as a gargle before swallowing to be quite useful for my sore throat and cough. However, I can have 6 cups a day. Honey is still sugar so I'm wondering if those 6 added teaspoons of sugar are doing me more harm than good.

Sugar is the most organic of all organics. It gets a bad rap because some use too much. Cooking and baking from scratch eliminates overuse.

I stopped eating white, refined sugar (brown as well) some 15 years ago, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. I have found that my taste buds have changed, that I do not desire sugar, and that substances that did not taste sweet now do (I know why they call them "sweet" peas). Of course, I am an avid reader of labels, and have found sugar added to foods that require no sugar: canned soups, breads, chicken broth, and even garlic salt! Clearly, somebody is making lots of money from the American addiction.

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