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Sugar, Caffeine, and Your Heart: What You Need to Know

Sugar is the one ingredient in food that almost everyone likes, and it is abundant in many foods, both naturally and as added sugar. For years, the healthcare community has been focused on cholesterol and triglycerides as being bad for health, and the evidence is mounting that too much sugar is not good for health either. Sugar and heart disease: sugar not only increases the risk of premature heart disease and stroke but can also reduce life expectancy.

The problem with sugar begins when people start to consume large amounts, especially sugar that is refined and added to enhance the flavor of food.  In the typical American diet, sugar makes up at least 10 percent of calories in a day, but more than 20 percent of the population consumes two to three times that amount every day. Most of the extra sugar is considered “junk” calories and all it does is just add to body weight.  (Junk calories mean they provide no useful purpose to body functions.)

A recent study showed that people who consumed twice the number of calories in added sugars than is acceptable were more likely to die from premature heart disease compared to those who consumed less than 10 percent added sugar. Sugar and heart disease: the higher the amount of sugar consumed, the greater the risk of death.

Where Does the Extra Sugar Come From?

The majority of sugar can be found in cola beverages, energy drinks, and sports drinks. In addition, many people add sugar to their coffee and tea. Caffeine and heart disease can also go hand-in-hand. 

These beverages alone account for nearly 30 percent of the extra sugar that Americans consume regularly. At least 70 percent of coffee and tea drinkers add extra sugar to their beverages, in which caffeine and heart disease also play a role. In the North American diet, the key sources of extra sugar can be found in:

  • Cola beverages
  • Flavored dairy products
  • Cereals
  • Fruit juices
  • Candies
  • Cookies
  • Chocolates
  • Ice cream and shakes
  • Most processed foods
  • Desserts
  • Baked foods
  • Pies

However, extra sugar can also be found in items that may not be considered sweet, like soups, cured meats, bread, yogurt, biscuits, and condiments, such as ketchup.  Always read the labels to see how much sugar is contained in what you are eating.  There is no doubt: North Americans consume too much sugar. In a single day, most people consume anywhere from 12-24 teaspoons of sugar, which averages to 190-400 calories a day in sugar alone.

What Are The Adverse Effects of Sugar?

Over the years, research has shown that people who consume high levels of sugar are prone to heart disease. Consuming too much sugar can lead to high blood pressure and chronic inflammation, both of which can lead to heart disease. The latest research shows that excess sugar consumption in cola beverages can lead to weight gain by turning off the appetite control system in the brain. 

Sugar tricks the brain into thinking that the liquid calories are junk and that solid calories are needed by the body.  Therefore, the individual continues to eat more, while at the same time consuming more cola beverages, which can also become a caffeine and heart disease issue.

How Does Sugar Affect Your Heart?

Sugar has negative effects both on the heart and the arteries in several ways.  

  1. Conversion to triglycerides. When you consume excess sugar, the extra calories are stored as triglycerides, and high levels of triglycerides are a major risk factor for heart disease.
  2. LDL cholesterol. Foods high in sugar have been linked to high levels of “bad” cholesterol, which is known to clog the arteries that supply oxygen to the heart.
  3. Blood pressure. High sugary diets have been linked to high blood pressure, which, in turn, increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  4. Chronic inflammation. Sugar can promote inflammation in the body which leads to excess stress on the heart and blood vessels, which, in turn, increases the risk of premature death and stroke.

Can We Eliminate Sugar From The Diet?

While there is no way to completely eliminate all sugar from the diet (and you wouldn’t want to) because it is found in many foods, the focus should be on eating foods that contain natural sugar, such as fruits and veggies, and not “added” sugar. 

Consuming foods that contain natural sugar is healthy because it provides energy for the body. Unlike other proteins and fats, sugar provides an instant source of energy as it is readily metabolized. In fact, the brain uses sugar as a source of energy for most of its functions.

How Much Sugar Is Safe?

The exact amount of sugar one can consume without compromising health is not known but experts recommend that one should have no more than 6-8 teaspoons of sugar a day. The universal opinion is that sugary colas should be avoided as they can increase blood pressure. 

Even though federal guidelines have set limits on the intake of fats and salt, there is no set upper limit for extra sugar. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), women should not consume more than 6 teaspoons of sugar (100 calories) per day and men should not consume more than 9 teaspoons (150 calories) per day. 

To put things into perspective, a regular canned cola beverage contains 9 teaspoons of sugar, and just one drink a day would place most people over the daily limit.

How to Prevent Excess Sugar Intake

  1. Read labels: One of the best ways to monitor the intake of sugar is to read labels. At the same time, it is important to know that sugar may be labeled as one of the following:
  • Agave nectar
  • Barley malt
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane syrup
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Other sugar terminology (like dextrose, fructose, lactose, sucrose)
  • Rice syrup
  1. Notice how many grams/serving: You also need to read labels for the number of grams per serving. For example, if the label says 10 grams of sugar per serving, but if you eat 5 servings of the same food, this can easily result in 50 grams of sugar. 
  2. Try to avoid added sugar: Experts recommend that if you feel like eating something sweet, go for a fruit-based dessert, preferably fresh fruit with no added sugar.
  3. Discontinue sugary drinks: Just one can of pop provides more sugar than the daily recommended allowance.

Caffeine and Heart Disease

Caffeine can also contribute to heart disease because within your body, it can trigger a reaction similar to an adrenaline rush, which is why so many people say they need it every morning to get their day started.  However, if too much caffeine gets into your system, it can trigger an escalation of calcium inside your heart’s cells, which can affect your heart rate.

Summary

Sugar and heart disease are conditions you need under control.  Depending on the individual, your body can tolerate many things in moderation.  However, sugar and caffeine in excess are both substances you will want to carefully monitor.  At Cano Health, we offer diverse services covering a wide range of conditions, including cardiovascular services for your heart.  Call 1-855-226-6633 to learn more about keeping your heart safe today!

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