Want to cut your risk for having a heart attack or a stroke? Cut out added sugars. Just to be clear, added sugar is, as the name implies, a caloric sweetener added to a processed or prepared food. The classic added sugar, of course, is the table sugar most people add to their tea, coffee, cereal—you name it. Natural sugars in fruit, vegetables, dairy products and other whole foods are integral—meaning not added. The easiest way to banish added sugars is to follow the Atkins Diet. At its heart, Atkins is a low-sugar diet and a no-added sugar diet.
It’s well know that a high-carb diet is associated with a lipid profile that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, but until now researchers haven’t looked specifically at the role of added sugar. A study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has done just that. The researchers examined the added sugar consumption of more than 6,100 men and women who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999 to 2006. This program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of Americans combined interviews with physical examinations. The researchers grouped the respondents into five groups, ranging from those who consumed less than 5 percent of total calories as added sugars to those whose intake was 25 percent or more.
Anyone who has adopted the Atkins Diet as his or her lifestyle won’t be surprised by the findings, and Atkins “newbies” will be happy to hear them. The researches found that the more added sugar the study participants consumed, the worse their lipid profiles, specifically:
Triglyceride levels were higher.
HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels were lower.
The ratio of triglycerides to HDL (good) cholesterol was higher.
Women’s LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels were higher (but not men’s).
People who consumed 10 percent or more of their calories as added sugar were 50 to 300 percent more likely to have low HDL levels than individuals who consumed just 5 percent or less of their calories as added sugar. As the researchers summarized, “In this study, there was a statistically significant correlation between dietary added sugars and blood lipid levels among U.S. adults.”
This groundbreaking study is another reason to stop obsessing about fat and put the blame for lipid problems where it belongs. The real culprit is a diet high in processed foods full of added sugar and other refined carbohydrates. I suggest you share the result of this study with any friends or family who aren’t yet convinced that doing Atkins is not just effective for weight loss, it’s also a prescription for good health.