Sugar is a Major Cause of Heart Disease

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Food and Nutrition
Last Reviewed 03/27/2014

Sugar is a Major Cause of Heart Disease

For years, we’ve been told to watch our fat intake. But if you saw me on Dr. Oz’s show, you heard me say that the real villain in heart disease isn’t fat—but sugar. With Americans eating a diet that’s high in sugar, and other refined carbohydrates that are converted to sugar, we’re unwittingly giving ourselves heart disease in record numbers. 

How Sugar Causes Heart Disease

The problem with sugar is that it contributes to inflammation of the arterial walls. It does that by generating an insulin spike, and when insulin spikes continuously it starts to ravage the fragile, but ultra-important endothelial lining of blood vessels. If the endothelial lining becomes damaged, all the well-known causes of heart disease problems swarm to the scene and create the inflammatory mayhem that eventually leads to heart attack and stroke.

What’s worse is that excessive sugar consumption can also cause weight gain. Weight gain, combined with sustained high insulin levels, can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes—which further increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.

How To Avoid Heart Disease Caused by Sugar

  1. Beware of high fructose corn syrup. Most of the sugar you eat is “hidden,” usually under the guise of high fructose corn syrup. This corn-based sweetener is used in thousands of foods, from ketchup and tomato sauce to soft drinks and crackers. Do everything you can to avoid foods containing this sweetener.

  2. Use natural sweeteners. If you must sweeten foods, add a little fruit juice or try some shredded raw or dried apples, coconut, raisins or dates. Use spices such as cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg. Or experiment with stevia, an herbal supplement that is now available as a sweetener.

  3. Eat several small meals. By eating little portions spread throughout the day, you’ll feel more satiated and be less inclined to overload on sweets that can cause heart disease.

  4. Limit alcohol intake. This includes wine, beer and liquor. Many people don’t realize that alcohol contains a large store of hidden sugar. 

  5. Eat an anti-inflammatory Pan-Asian Mediterranean (PAM) diet. My heart-healthy PAM eating plan includes 40 to 45 percent slow-burning, low-glycemic index carbohydrates; 35-40 percent healthy fats; and 20-25 percent protein—all of which help to reduce inflammation.

  6. Restrict bread and bread products as much as you can, especially those containing wheat. I strongly recommend you read The Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now it’s your turn: How have you reduced heart disease causes, such as sugar, in your diet?

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