Added Sugar Leads to Heart Disease and Cancer


If you’re worried about your heart health, here’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give you…

To keep your heart healthy, avoid any food with added sugar.

What exactly is added sugar? It’s sometimes called “hidden” sugar, because it turns up in foods where you would not expect it. Spaghetti sauce is one example. Bread, rolls, ketchup, and pizza are a few others.

Remember that the sweet stuff masquerades under many different names, so you may not see “sugar” on a label. Instead, you could see sucrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, and other names ending in “-ose,” all of which are different types of sugar.

Manufacturers add sugar, in one form or another, to nearly all processed foods to make them more appealing. But no matter how good these foods taste, research shows that products with added sugar subtract years from your life.

For example, a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) compared two groups of people. One ate no more than 8 percent of daily calories from sugar, while the other consumed between 17 and 21 percent of daily calories from sugar, in other words roughly one-fifth of their diet.

Unfortunately, the risk of dying from heart disease was 38 percent higher in the second, sugar-loving group. 

Health experts at Harvard School of Public Health, who conducted this study, reviewed data from more than 100,000 American adults. They found two things. First, most US adults consume more added sugar than is healthy.

And second, there was a significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk of dying from heart disease.

The bright spot in this news is that you can still enjoy fresh fruit, because the sugar in fruit is naturally occurring, not added. But frozen fruit requires a look at the label, because sugar is frequently added.

I also recommend that my patients and readers avoid fruit juice because the natural sugar (fructose) is concentrated and other sugars may also be added.

Here are some common food sources of added sugar, many of them hiding in places where you wouldn’t expect to find it:

  • Fruit-flavored yogurt
  • Energy and granola bars
  • Tomato-based pasta sauce
  • Salad dressings and BBQ sauce
  • Canned soups
  • Canned vegetables
  • Energy drinks
  • Peanut butter
  • Breakfast cereals

If you spend a little time in the supermarket, you’ll see that the amount of added sugar in certain foods—and even within the same brand—varies wildly.

For example, compare 4 ounces of Mott’s Original Applesauce (sweetened) with Mott’s Original Natural Applesauce (unsweetened). The first has 90 calories and 22 grams of sugar, while the second contains only 50 calories and 11 grams of sugar.

Maybe you’re thinking, this is an awful lot of trouble just to avoid sugar. I’ve been eating it all my life and I’m still here, so why change now? Here’s my answer.

When you look at sugar as I do, as a medical doctor, it’s pretty sickening.

Sugar contributes to the obesity epidemic, currently affecting a whopping 70 percent of the population. It’s also linked to cancer, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, Alzheimer’s disease, and nutrient deficiencies.

That’s right—sugar lovers are at risk of malnutrition, because so many of the sugar-filled foods they consume are made with processed ingredients lacking in basic nutrients.

For anyone who’s thinking that just a little extra sugar can’t be that bad, here’s a study showing that it is. After reviewing previous research, scientists examined the effects of sugar-sweetened beverages on the risk of coronary heart disease.

Their conclusion ….

Just one sugary beverage per day resulted in a 16 percent increase in heart disease risk.

The added sugar/heart disease link is so strong the American Heart Association has issued guidelines that recommend no more than 100 calories of added sugars per day for women and no more than 150 calories daily for men.

How To Reduce Sugar Intake?

Here are a few ways you can cut down on added sugar:

  1. Go easy on the alcohol. Wine, beer, and hard liquor all contain hefty amounts of sugar.
  2. Avoid processed and fast foods whenever possible. They tend to be made with cheap sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup, that are definitely not recommended.
  3. Trade refined white sugar for healthier alternatives. Try sweeteners like raw, organic honey and organic maple syrup.
  4. When the urge for something sweet just won’t go away, take just two bites of dark organic chocolate. Not only is it a good source of magnesium, but also the nutrients in chocolate are loaded with health benefits.  Milk chocolate, not so much. If chocolate’s not your thing, try frozen grapes or banana slices, or a teaspoon of raw, organic honey instead.

Going on a sugar search at every meal may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t take long to get to know which foods to avoid. Another option: Cook your own meals, and you won’t have to worry about “hidden” ingredients, like sugar.

The best thing is that my patients who give up hidden sugar later tell me how much better they feel, how much weight they’ve lost, and that they don’t really miss it as much as they thought.

If you saw all of the misery I see every day, especially for people with type II diabetes, thanks to sugar, you would avoid it like poison.

I urge you to cut back on your sugar intake immediately do it right now for yourself and your loved ones.


Last Updated: August 2, 2021
Originally Published: November 20, 2014