As a general rule, if something is bad for our health, we are told about it. In 1964, for example, the American Surgeon General published a report confirming the link between smoking and lung cancer – since then the tobacco industry itself has been obliged to warn customers of the harmful effects of its products. The AIDS epidemic of the 1980s prompted similarly vigorous campaigns warning about the dangers of unprotected sex and sharing needles. So it seems entirely reasonable that we should be given stark warnings about anything that poses a serious threat to health, yet there is one substance that, for some reason, continues to escape the net:
There is a vast difference in public perception between sugar and cigarettes. While the latter is recognized without question as an addictive killer, sugar remains little more than a guilty pleasure, and in many people’s minds an innocent treat. As long as you brush your teeth thoroughly and get some exercise, what’s the harm?
Well, an increasing body of research is showing refined sugar to be right up there with smoking as a major killer. Both are packed with harmful chemicals, both are known to be addictive, and both cause untold damage to our vital organs – especially the heart.
A study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) found that people who consumed 25% or more of their daily calories from sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to those whose diets included less than 10%.
In both smoking and sugar consumption, we are looking at two serious evils. The world is yet to grasp just how dangerous sugar can be.
Sugar consumption and the path to heart disease
The link between refined sugar and heart disease consists of multiple strands. The first is the effect of sugar on insulin. When you eat that donut or drink that fizzy drinks, the sugar passes very quickly into the bloodstream, triggering the body to release insulin to absorb any excess and stabilize blood-sugar levels. Load your body with too much sugar and the resultant insulin spikes lead to the bodybuilding an insulin resistance.
This, in simple terms, is how type 2 diabetes develops. Diabetes is listed by the American Heart Association as being one of the seven major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Adults with the condition are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease and at least 68% of people aged 65 or older with diabetes die from some form of heart disease. Further to this, however, a 2012 meta-analysis published in the journal PLoS ONE found evidence of a link between insulin resistance and heart disease in cases where type 2 diabetes has not yet been diagnosed.
High sugar consumption is also directly linked to obesity, the prevalence of which is twice the global average here in the UAE. Obesity is another major risk factor for heart disease, leading to hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which can cause clots, resulting in heart attacks and strokes.