Too many holiday treats could put your health at risk

Advocate Healthcare News

It is the season for candies, cakes and cookies with frostings, glazes and sprinkles. Not to mention hot cocoa, sugary sodas and festive adult beverages.

So, what could be wrong about a one-month binge on all the sweet treats the winter holidays offer – especially if you maintain a healthy weight and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the year?

A 15-year Harvard University study of American adults says if you’re like most Americans, overloading on sugar could prove more harmful to your heart health than you think.

According to the study, people who eat large amounts of sugar have a higher risk of dying from heart disease, regardless of their sex, age, weight and exercise habits. In fact, adults who get 25 percent of their daily caloric intake from sugar are over two times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those who get 10 percent of their daily calories from sugar.

“You could be leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, for the most part, and still put yourself at high risk for heart disease by eating too much sugar,” says Dr. Imran Ali, a cardiologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. On average, Americans consume nearly 30 teaspoons of sugar and sweeteners every day, which amounts to 100 pounds of sugar a year. High levels of sugar are often hidden in processed foods, breads, soda and fruit drinks.

Researchers are still exploring how excess sugar might harm the heart. However, science has concluded that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can raise blood pressure. Also, a high-sugar diet is known to stimulate the liver to release more harmful fats into the bloodstream, which can lead to heart disease.

“While you should be able to enjoy the holidays, it’s always a good idea to keep track of the amount of sugar you eat, and adjust your normal eating habits to accommodate sweets from time to time,” Dr. Ali says, adding “Keep in mind that a 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about nine teaspoons of sugar.”

Dr. Ali recommends adults to limit daily sugar intake. Women should have fewer than 100 calories, or six teaspoons, of added sugar a day. Men should have fewer than 150 calories, or nine teaspoons, a day, he says.

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