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Sugar, Fat and Cardiovascular Disease

If you were to ask 10 people what foods increase their risk for cardiovascular disease more, a big juicy hamburger or the coke that they wash it down with, I’d bet that at least 8 out of the 10 would say the hamburger.  Would you?  Everybody knows that eating a hamburger with all of that saturated fat from the burger causes heart disease, right?

Maybe the entire set-up of the question would lead you to think that it must be a trick question.  Ever since the late 1970’s when the “low fat” guidelines were established the rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease and diabetes have increased.

Back in 2014 there were three important studies that looked at this question.  What they found confounded many of the “experts” and should give us all pause to think about what we are doing in our diets.

Fats and Cardiovascular Disease

The first study from the Annals of Internal Medicine was a “meta-analysis” which means that it was a study that combined the results of a large group of other studies (this study looked at over 72 other studies).  They looked to see if there was a direct link between the ingestion of fats and cardiovascular risk.  What they found was that the only fat that was correlated with an increased risk was “trans” fats, like those found in deep-fried foods and chips.  That’s right. No correlation to healthy saturated fats from meats, coconut oils, avocados, nuts, and olives.

Sugar and Cardiovascular Disease

The second study was from the Journal of the American Medical Association. It was another meta-analysis and it found a significant correlation between the intake of sugar and cardiovascular disease.  Those with the highest consumption of sugar had a 275% higher rate of CVD as those with the lowest sugar intake.

Not Weight Dependent

The third study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This meta-analysis showed that the risk for CVD in the sugar intake group was independent of weight gain.  In other words, it didn’t matter if the person eating too much sugar was overweight or not. They still increased their risk of chronic degenerative cardiovascular disease.

So what’s going on here? Well, the connection may have a lot to do with inflammation. Sugar is a highly inflammatory food and increased systemic inflammation is implicated in the acceleration of cardiovascular disease.

Take-Home Message:

  1. Increase healthy and natural fats.
  2. Decrease intake of trans fats.
  3. Decrease intake of refined sugars.
  4. Live a longer, healthier life!

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