Glucose is essential for cells as they cannot live without it. However, if sugar is consumed in excess, it can affect the heart. In this article, we will see how this damage develops.
The presence of carbohydrates is common in all diets around the world. It is an element with a strong presence, especially in industrialized countries. The problem is that sugar can affect the heart even in people who are not diabetic.
Traditionally, people thought that the problem of high blood sugar was only a complication for people with diabetes. But experts no longer believe this to be true. When we look at the nutritional composition of what we eat every day in detail, we see that excess sugar can affect the heart.
Glucose is not isolated in human metabolism but is involved with fats and proteins in the complex mechanism of cellular life. Also, all tissues depend on sugar in one way or another, so its effect is distributed throughout the body.
Add to this the obesity pandemic, in which the consumption of highly processed foods is a risk factor. Many of the food products we buy are deliberately sweetened, increasing the kilocalories we consume. And this, in the medium term, is bad for cardiovascular health.
Added sugar can affect the heart
Foods with added sugar can affect the heart faster than we think. And as we mentioned, it’s hard to avoid that extra sweetness in grocery stores.
A study published in the journal JAMA found that high sugar intake increases cardiovascular risk. Specifically, people who get more than 17% of their daily energy from added sugars have an increased risk of death from heart problems by up to 38%.
In the cases we’re talking about, let’s make it clear that sugar is added to the food during the manufacturing process of the product. That is, we are not talking about the sugar naturally found in food, but rather the product that people deliberately add later. In this case, it is easy to understand that we are dealing with something artificial.
Also, in a more complex sense, people who increase their consumption of added sugar tend to lower the good fat percentage in their diet. By not stimulating the increase in HDL cholesterol, which cleans the arteries, we multiply our risk of heart problems.
How does sugar affect the heart?
We know that when we consume sugar in large quantities and overly processed forms, it can affect the heart. So how exactly does it harm us?
The theory behind the added sugar hazard to cardiovascular health is based on accounting for excess. When we take in more glucose than we can process in a short time, this molecule leads to complications as the excess builds up.
Glucose must enter the cells so they can convert it into energy. This energy moves the circuits of the cells and enables us to carry out our daily activities. However, if any excess sugar remains, the body stores it for use when it needs it.
The problem lies in excessive storage, as the intake is more than necessary. One form of storage will be fat, and this translates into overweight and obesity.
The role of insulin
Also, excess sugar circulating in the blood requires the pancreas to produce more insulin. The effort required by the organ is so great that the means of the production run out and get out of control. We then go through periods of hyperinsulinemia with too much insulin in the blood and hypoinsulinemia with too little blood insulin.
Insulin is a metabolic regulator that is not solely responsible for glucose. Among its functions is the regulation of lipids. Therefore, its breakdown raises triglycerides and bad cholesterol, or LDL.
When all these factors come together, the result is an increase in cardiovascular risk. In this case, we reach a point where the person has slightly elevated sugar levels, has high triglycerides, is insulin deficient, and is overweight. The heart becomes the target organ for an acute event.
What should we do about sugar?
You don’t need to be a nutritionist to learn how to regulate added sugar in your diet. You just need to change some of your habits and protect your heart.
It is important to know that carbohydrates are divided into two general forms:
Simple carbohydrates: These include sugars added to foods by the food industry.
Complex carbohydrates: These are good for health, have beneficial effects, and can be consumed more than simple carbohydrates.
In strict numbers, an adult should have a limit of 6 to 9 tablespoons of added sugar per day. This is significantly less than the average intake in industrialized countries, which is about 22 tablespoons per day.
Since we cannot measure this amount physically in daily life, it is best to reduce the consumption of products that we know contain extra sugar. For example, we can mention sodas and soft drinks, pastries, fruit yogurt, and commercial juices.
Less sugar for more heart
The decision to change your diet is a necessary one to protect your cardiovascular health. You cannot quietly risk your quality of life by consuming products that harm you.
You already have the information you need: Sugar can affect the heart when consumed in excess. Therefore, it’s time to act accordingly and take care of yourself.