Sugary Drinks and Heart Disease

The way we live, our environment and the food we eat is the main cause of the epidemic of chronic disease such as heart problems and cancer. A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health has discovered that drinking just one sugary drink a day increases your chances of heart disease by 20 per cent.

42,883 men aged between 40 and 75 years were surveyed and it only took one sugary drink a day to increase the risk. However drinking sugary drinks just twice a week did not seem to have the same effect.

Heart disease is still the major cause of death in the West and so far the risk factors have included obesity, smoking, physical inactivity and poor diet. Now they have to add sugary drinks to the list.

Sugar is a bad food – it’s not just non-nutritive, it’s anti-nutritive, and the reason for that is that when sugar is found in natural foods and plants, like apples or berries, it comes complete with the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes needed for its digestion. When it is found in your sugary drinks, or in other processed foods such as your cereal, it contains nothing of any value. It is ‘pro-inflammatory’. Your body actually has to borrow from its stores of nutrients in order to process it and that’s one reason sugar is considered to be an immune system depressor. It can put your white blood cells, and therefore your immune system, to sleep for hours. In order to be metabolised, sugar literally ‘eats up’ nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and so ‘takes energy’, it does not ‘give’ energy.

When you eat sugar, your blood sugar rises quickly and your pancreas immediately jumps into action. It responds to the increase in blood sugar by secreting the hormone insulin, whose job, among other things, is to get that sugar out of the bloodstream quickly and deliver it to the muscle cells where it can be used for energy. If sugar stays in your blood it can do a lot of damage.

Once we have sugar in our body, most of us are not using our muscle cells enough to create much of a demand for all the sugar that is in our diet. It really doesn’t require too much sugar to power the muscles used to move the mouse on your computer, so the muscle cells eventually shut their doors. Sugar then goes into fat cells, or it continues to stay in the blood and cause inflammation and other damage.

Of course with our high calorie diets we require a lot more insulin to manage all the sugar than is needed for a moderate amount of sugar from a natural food, like an apple. The pancreas has to put more and more insulin into the system to get the job done, and high levels of insulin create a whole lot of other problems.

Insulin, for example, tells the kidneys to hold onto sodium, which increases blood pressure, leading to heart problems. High insulin levels encourage the body to store excess fat and chronically high insulin levels have also been linked to Metabolic Syndrome, an insulin resistance problem which is similar to ‘pre-diabetes’, this also increases the risk for heart disease.

And that’s just the beginning…

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