When is sweet taste sour? When it’s in foods where it doesn’t belong. And, when it leads to an unhealthy heart. How? By depositing sugar as fat into an area of our body called the viscera – around our stomach and intestines.

In the 1980s, we went fat-free. Yet obesity continued to rise. As did heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer.

Scientists are puzzled. Wuz up?

Turns out, sugar.

A 2009 study proved that two groups fed beverages sweetened with either fructose or glucose gained the same amount of weight (about 3 pounds), but the new fat ended up in different places. The fructose group gained visceral fat, which is linked to much higher risk of heart disease and diabetes than the fat that sits just beneath your skin.

Since then, more studies have consistently shown the same effect. And the amount of sugar used in the studies typically is equivalent to a fructose-sweetened 12-ounce can of soda, as in High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

Those of us drinking the most fructose have the most visceral fat, higher blood pressure and higher blood sugar levels, in addition to elevated triglycerides (fat in your blood), LDL (bad cholesterol) and low HDL (good cholesterol). Not only that, liver and muscle fat doubled in one study where folks downed a liter a day. This is indeed precarious in our body’s system because a fatty liver leads to insulin resistance (inability of your muscle cells to drink up much need blood sugar for energy) and is the first stepping-stone to diabetes or heart disease.

The danger of HFCS is that when levels in the body are high, the liver goes into overt action, quickly converting it to fat and plunking it right down in our gut. This isn’t the kind of fat our body likes to burn for energy, though, so it lingers and creates more danger. This whole process is like an algebraic equation:

 HFCS + Your Body = Visceral Fat & Fatty Live = Inflammation = Cardiovascular Disease

The average American downs 22 to 28 teaspoons of added sugars per day (some consume more). That’s mostly HFCS (from sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, desserts, treats and sweets like doughnuts, muffins and cookies, ice cream, and yogurt with added sugars, and the list goes on) or ordinary table sugar. To put that into perspective, a 12-ounce soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar. Three years ago, the American Heart Association offered these recommendations for cutting sugar intake:

  • Men – no more than 150 calories per day (9 ½ teaspoons)
  • Women – no more than 100 calories per day (6 ½ teaspoons)

It’s clear we haven’t accomplished that yet. And because of the recent “sugar’s so very bad,” many of the very researchers in these studies have sworn off sugar for life. They join the ranks of the rich and famous like Ellen DeGeneres who recently swore that a piece of candy or slice of pie would never touch her lips.

What will you do?

Check labels for hidden sugar:

  • Evaporated cane juice and cane sugar (in soy milk, protein and energy bars, processed sweets)
  • Beet sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • High fructose corn syrup (soda and processed foods like hamburger buns, boxed pasta dishes, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing)
  • Brown sugar
  • Table sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Brown rice syrup (in energy bars, organic processed foods)
  • Agave nectar
Sugar in the hot seat

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Good Measures