Sugar, not salt, could put us at even greater risk of heart-related diseases, according to a new study out of Kansas City.
For years, scientists have pointed to salt’s role in rising rates of cardiovascular issues, while the role of sugar has long been underestimated.
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“Approximately 15 percent of people in the U.S. are consuming 25 percent or more [of their] calories from added sugars. This level of intake almost triples their risk of cardiovascular mortality,” says lead researcher Dr. James J. DiNicolantonio of Saint Luke’s Mid American Heart Institute. “And yet this level of intake is supposedly OK based on the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations.”
It’s the ketonic monosaccharide fructose found in sugar that is particularly harmful and responsible for contributing to hypertension. This sugar, found in abundance in fruits and honey, leads to fatty liver and hepatic insulin resistance, causing the pancreas to secrete more insulin, which drives increased visceral fat storage, inflammation and diabetes — all of which puts stress on the heart.
DiNicolantonio and colleagues also established that the average reductions in blood pressure achieved by restricting salt intake tend to be relatively small, meaning that current recommendations to restrict sodium intake to less than 3 grams could actually intensify cardiovascular issues.
“Lowering sodium in the food supply will likely increase the intake of added sugars and processed foods, as sodium intake is likely physiologically driven — we’ve been consuming the same amount of sodium for 50 years," he says. "We will likely just eat more processed foods that are now lower in sodium to obtain the sodium our physiology demands.”
These new findings could pave the way for significant changes in dietary recommendations, with the expert advising, “The best way to prevent high blood pressure would be to eat real whole foods and avoid anything with added sugars: sucrose (also known as table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup.”