Sugar vs. Salt which is worse?

In today’s world much of our focus has been placed on decreasing our daily sodium consumption, salt, from our diet. In the 2013 “Guidelines on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk” developed by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiologists (ACC) recommends our daily sodium intake of 2400 mg/day with further reduction to 1500 mg/day in order to help lower our blood pressure. Recent research now suggest we have been focusing on the wrong “white crystal”, the actual culprit is SUGAR. ( found in processed foods, soda and cookies, and not whole foods, like fruit, are to blame).

There is no consensus on what our daily sugar intake should be. The AHA recommends daily intake of 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons of for men. While the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 6-12 teaspoons of sugar a day. Recent studies demonstrate the average American consumes about 77 -112 pounds of sugar a year, 22-47 teaspoons a day (100-200 grams/day), which is 6-16 times higher than the combined daily intake recommended from the AHA and WHO! Did you know, our recommende intake is contained in ONE can of Coca-Cola, 40 grams of sugar (10 teaspoons).

A recent article in Open Heart, a British medical journal, investigates how our overconsumption of dietary sugar is more hazardous to our health then overconsumption of dietary sodium. Here are some highlights:

  1. Sugar increases Systolic (top number, SBP) and Diastolic (bottom number, DBP) Blood Pressure 5-7 points. For example, consuming just 24 ounces of soda increases SBP, by 15 points, increases DBP, by 9 points, and increases heart rate by 9 beats per minute.
  2. Death from a cardiovascular event (ie stroke or heart attack) is 3 times higher when our daily caloric intake of added sugar is exceeds 25% of our daily calories.
  3. Consuming fructose (a form of sugar which is found in processed food) increases the body’s release of insulin, which over time leads to insulin resistance (seen in diabetes mellitus type 2); elevates heart rate, elevates vascular resistance (hypertension/blood pressure), which ultimately increases the stress on our hearts.
  4. Over consuming fructose, for as little as 2 weeks, demonstrates an increase in our triglycerides levels (cholesterol), fasting insulin levels, and doubles our chance of developing metabolic syndrome (pre-heart disease and pre-diabetes mellitus type 2).
  5. Decreasing sodium from processed foods, which are already high in fructose, does more harm and leads to over consumption of these products. Reason being, we need to replenish our sodium stores daily. If not vital bodily functions such as regulating our heart beat becomes impossible.
  6. Consumption of sugars, including fructose, in their natural occurring biological forms (ie fruits) is not harmful and helps reverses the negative effects of processed sugars and fructose. (OpenHeart 2014,1 doi:10.1136/openhrt-2014-000167)

Questions? Consult with one of our knowledgeable Providers at MHC Medical to assess your daily consumption of sugar today.

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