Sugar and Processed Foods Increase Heart Disease Risk

You can now add sugar to the list of ingredients that are bad for your heart. The results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicate that people who eat a diet high in sugar and processed foods have lower levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides.

The study followed a group of 6,000 people. The volunteers were divided into groups according to the amount of added sugars and sweeteners they ingested on a daily basis. The study didn’t consider natural sweeteners, such as those found in fruits and fruit juices.)

Average Level of Sugar Consumption

On average, the study participants ate the equivalent of 21 teaspoons of sugar each day. The group with the highest level of sugar consumption averaged 46 teaspoons of the sweet stuff daily, while the group with the lowest level of sugar consumption came in at an average of 3 teaspoons per day.

In cases where 10 percent of a participant’s diet came from sugar, the likelihood of having a low HDL rate was 50-300 percent higher than for people who were in the group consuming the least amount of sugar.

Increased Sugar Consumption

North American diets are becoming sweeter over time, which is not a good thing. Manufacturers are adding more sugar to their products, partly in response to demand for sweeter products. Processed foods have become more popular with consumers feeling strapped for time in response to increasing demands on their time from work and family obligations.

Foods that you may not consider “sweet” contain sugar, such as ketchup and mayonnaise. This ingredient is also added to prepared soups and spaghetti sauces, as well as baked goods.

If you want to become more aware of sugars in foods, be on the lookout for these ingredients. They are all sugars:

  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Maltodextrin
  • Molasses
  • Polydextrose
  • Sucrose

Why You Should be Concerned About Triglyceride Levels

Triglycerides are a form of fat that is stored in the blood. Humans need to eat to keep all the cells in their bodies well nourished. The calories that aren’t used right away are converted to triglycerides. The triglycerides are used to provide energy in between meals.

Someone who consumes more calories than they burn off may have high triglyceride levels. To determine a patient’s triglyceride levels, a doctor orders a blood test to measure the level after the person has fasted for between 9-12 hours.

The normal range for triglycerides is 150 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) or less. A person with triglyceride levels between 150-199 mg/dL is considered to be borderline high. Once the level hits 200 mg/dL or more, the triglyceride level is considered high. Anything over 500 mg/dL is very high.

High triglyceride levels can contribute to hardening of the arteries, which is one of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. This condition may also indicate Type 2 diabetes or a thyroid problem.

How to Lower Triglyceride Levels

Once a diagnosis of high triglyceride levels has been made, some lifestyle changes need to be made:

  • Reduce daily calorie intake

Since consuming too many calories is the reason for high triglyceride levels, keeping closer track of them is key to bringing the levels down.

  • Get regular exercise

Being physically active burns calories and helps to lower bad cholesterol as well. Going to the gym isn’t the only way to add more exercise to your daily routine. Anything that gets the heart rate elevated will have health benefits. Walking, swimming, or gardening are all good choices. Signing up for an exercise class may also be helpful, since the fact that it takes place at a set time may help encourage participants to stick with it.

  • Restrict Sugar and Trans Fat Intake

Both of these foods contribute to high triglyceride levels. Get in the habit of reading labels to check for partially hydrogenated oil, white flour and refined sugar and avoid foods containing these ingredients.

What Are Triglycerides?

Triglycerides are deposits of fat that are present in the body and they are linked to the amount of carbohydrates you are eating. When you consume carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cereals, fruits and vegetables) your body uses them to make glucose, which is food for your cells. They take what they need, and any excess glucose goes to your liver, where it is converted into glycogen.

Glycogen is stored in the muscles. Once the muscles have enough glycogen, any excess is sent back to the liver again, where it is stored as triglycerides (also known as fat).

The body has an unlimited capacity for storing triglycerides, and some of them will end up in your bloodstream. A high amount of triglycerides makes the blood thicker. Thickened blood is more likely to clot or cause blockages, which can cause a heart attack or a stroke.

How to Lower Triglycerides

If you want to lower your risk of developing heart disease, keeping your triglyceride levels down is important. When you have high triglyceride levels in your bloodstream, the risk of coronary blockage increases.

Definition of Triglycerides

The term “triglycerides” refers to fatty deposits that are stored in the body. When you eat carbohydrates, the body turns them into glucose, which is food for your body’s cells. The cells use the glucose for energy, and any excess amount of glucose is returned back to the liver, where it is turned into glycogen. The glycogen is stored in your body’s muscles.

When your body has reached its upper limit of glycogen, any excess amount goes back your liver. At this point, the glycogen becomes triglycerides, and it is stored in the body as fat. Some of the triglycerides remain in the bloodstream, and this can be problematic.

High Triglyceride Levels

When the triglyceride levels in the bloodstream are too high, the blood becomes thicker than normal. This thickened blood is more likely to clot or block the coronary arteries, which may cause either a heart attack or a stroke. Keeping your triglyceride levels down is one of the keys to preventing heart disease.

While it is important to keep your cholesterol levels at an acceptable level, triglyceride levels are also crucial. If you are unfortunate enough to have high cholesterol and high triglycerides, then your chances of developing heart disease greatly increase.

The diet you choose to follow directly affects your triglyceride levels. Your goal should be to keep a close eye on anything that your body will convert to glucose when you eat it. Many popular diets that people are following these days are low carbohydrate ones, and following one of them will lower your body’s triglyceride levels.

In addition to limiting your carbohydrate intake, you should also avoid eating a lot of sugar. Sugar is another substance that your body will convert into glucose (and eventually triglycerides) when you eat it.

Making a point of consuming Omega 3 fatty acids if you want to lower your triglyceride levels. Vitamin C will also help to keep the levels down.

If you combine these two supplements with a low-carbohydrate diet, you will be well on your way to keeping your triglyceride levels down.

Take great care that you don’t try to eliminate all fat in your diet. You need to consume a certain amount of fat in order to stay healthy. Plan to include natural animal fat (found in eggs and butter) in your diet. The kind of fat in fast food, margarine, and processed foods is the type you want to avoid.

Your triglyceride levels can be checked when you see your doctor for a checkup. A blood test will give you and your doctor an idea of whether your triglyceride levels are too high. If your triglyceride levels are under 199mg/dL, that is considered normal. Keep in mind that these levels should be kept as low as possible for optimal health.