Approximately 73.5 million, or 30%, of adults in the United States have high cholesterol. Cholesterol is generally caused by eating too many sweets and unhealthy foods, not exercising, and genetics. Researchers have begun to ask the question, “Is sugar and your cholesterol correlated?” in order to find about more potential risk factors for high cholesterol.
A well-known fact in regards to high cholesterol is that foods high in fat and cholesterol can create plaque buildup along your arterial walls, leading to high blood pressure. Usually eating healthier, exercising more, and not smoking can be enough to help.
Losing 5-10 pounds can dramatically aid in lowering your LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing your HDL (good cholesterol) that helps to protect your heart.
However, some people tend to find that despite diet changes like low-fat diets, their cholesterol levels are still quite high. What doctors are finding is that added sugar and your cholesterol are directly correlated.
The higher your added sugar intake is, the higher your cholesterol levels will likely be. Dr. James Smith, a cardiologist with USF Health and Florida Hospital Tampa’s Pepin Heart Institute, said that he sees it in his “patients all the time…For some people, the main problem with their cholesterol is sugar consumption.”
Dr. Smith had his patients keep food journals for a week and have them see just how much added sugar and white flour foods they ate. The patients were usually surprised at how much of these ingredients were in the foods they ate.
Foods like that tend to have low nutritional value and high in calories. If the excess calories are not burned off, they turn into triglycerides, which are a form of LDL and lead to high cholesterol and possibly heart attack or stroke.
Additionally, higher levels of triglycerides means less HDL and you lose any protection from healthy cholesterols.
Nadine Pazder, a dietitian from the Morton Plant Hospital, stated, “We ask patients to eliminate concentrated sweets, those empty calories we all indulge in, and to lose a little weight, which helps improve triglycerides fast. Within just a few weeks you’ll see significant improvement. Triglycerides move pretty quickly, where it can take months to see improvement in HDL and LDL with dietary changes.”
The recommended amount of added sugar intake, according to the American Heart Association, is 100 calories or 25 grams per day for women and 150 calories, or 36 grams a day for men. The average American eats about 360 calories of added sugar a day–about three times the suggested amount.
One of the top temptations for sugar lovers is soda. The average American drinks about 44 gallons of soda each year, with each can of soda having anywhere from 15-26 grams of sugar.
Trying to cut back on sugary drinks like soda and sports drinks can help lower your triglycerides in just a few weeks. Sugar and your cholesterol are important to track in order to stay heart healthy.