Sweet tooth may cause more than just a cavity

Do you like sweet and sugary foods? Who doesn’t? However, before you reach for another scoop of ice cream, you should consider the serious issues that sugar causes besides weight gain and blood sugar problems.

Do you like sweet and sugary foods? Who doesn’t? However, before you reach for another scoop of ice cream, you should consider the serious issues that sugar causes besides weight gain and blood sugar problems.

The results of a 2014 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association are clear: consumption of added sugar (any sugar used in processed or prepared foods, but not naturally occurring sugar in fruit or juices) increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease exponentially.

When consumption of added sugar reaches 25 per cent or more of total calories, a person becomes almost three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The biggest contributors of added sugar in our diets are sugar-sweetened beverages, followed by grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts and candy.

These facts should be an eye opener for all of us in North America, judging by the way our sugar intake has continued to increase over the years. Excessive sugar consumption and heart disease are both continuing problems based on our diets.

Although it is interesting that sugar consumption parallels cardiovascular disease deaths over time, please keep in mind that correlation does not prove causation. Shockingly, sugar consumption is not even included as one of the major modifiable risk factors for CVD.

We can only hope this will change in the future. Currently, major risk factors include the following: high blood pressure and cholesterol, tobacco use, physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes, low intake of fruits and vegetables as well as a high intake of saturated fats.

The American Heart Association (AHA) currently recommends that women limit their intake of added sugar to 100 calories per day (6.7 teaspoons) and men limit their intake to 150 calories (10 teaspoons). These amounts reflect approximately five per cent of daily caloric intake, making the AHA guidelines the most restrictive for added sugar.

In comparison, the World Health Organization recommends less than 10 per cent of your daily calories come from added sugar.

As a naturopathic doctor, the treatment and natural therapies that I recommend on a daily basis are used once there is a solid nutritional foundation in place, including a limited amount of sugar in the diet. No pills, whether natural or synthetic, will fix a bad diet.

In order to do this, I collect a diet diary from every patient so that I can screen and identify those patients consuming too much sugar and speak to them about the serious risks of sugar, especially those at high risk for CVD.

So, how much sugar are you consuming on a daily basis?

Track the amount of sugar you’re consuming for a couple of days and talk to your naturopathic doctor about your sugar intake and the increased risk it may be putting you at for cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Shane Johnson ND was born and raised in Red Deer and is the owner of Aspire Natural Medicine. He completed his naturopathic medical training at Bastyr University, and is among only a handful of naturopathic doctors in Alberta to complete an additional one-year residency in family medicine. For more detailed information on naturopathic medicine visit www.aspiremedicine.ca.