Eating too much added sugar doesn’t just expand our waistlines heart disease, diabetes, these chronic conditions are among the leading causes of death worldwide. Increasingly, scientists are focusing on a common set of underlying metabolic issues that raise people’s risk for chronic disease. It turns out that the long-term overconsumption of added sugars is linked to many of these dysfunctions. Making sense of metabolic syndrome . The broad term for those dysfunctions is metabolic syndrome ( MetS). MetS involves a cluster of symptoms that, when present together, increase the chances of acquiring a chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease and liver disease . MetS has been a topic of active study in medicine since the 1980s, in part due to the increasing impact of these diseases on health worldwide. Today, research is increasingly focused on how the standard American diet – heavy in processed, packaged foods – impacts MetS and chronic disease.
MetS is composed of the following five
– Large Waist Size: 35” or more for
women and 40” for men
– High triglycerides : 150 mg/dL or
higher (or use of cholesterol medication)
– High total cholesterol, or HDL levels
under 50 mg/dL for women, 40 mg for
– High blood pressure: 135/85 mm or
– High blood sugar: 100 mg/dL or
According to the American Heart
Association, 56 million Americans have metabolic syndrome, or roughly one in five people (22.9%) over age 20,
placing them at higher risk for chronic
disease. The syndrome runs in families
and varies across racial-ethnic groups.
“Sugar belly” may be a warning sign One of the most obvious signs of metabolic syndrome is a “sugar belly.” This is the “apple” body shape, in which the waist measurement is larger than the hips. If you or a family member tend to carry extra weight around the waist, it’s especially important to discuss metabolic syndrome with a health provider, so they can take the blood-pressure and blood tests needed to confirm it.
How does added sugar lead to MetS?
Over time, consuming large quantities
of added sugar can stress and damage
critical organs, including the pancreas
and liver. When the pancreas , which
produces insulin to process sugars,
becomes overworked, it can fail to
regulate blood sugar properly. Large
doses of the sugar fructose also can
overwhelm the liver, which metabolizes fructose. In the process, the liver will convert excess fructose to fat , which is stored in the liver and also released into the bloodstream. This process contributes to key elements of MetS, including high blood fats or triglycerides, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and extra body fat in the form of a sugar belly. Many, but not all, people with
metabolic syndrome are overweight or
obese. People who consume too many
added sugars are more likely to become obese and to get MetS. But you
don’t have to be overweight to have
metabolic syndrome. This puts all of us at risk for MetS and for chronic disease.
MetS is linked to heart disease and diabetes
Sixteen million Americans have heart
disease, which is the #1 killer in the
United States. Growing scientific
evidence is helping identify the various
ways that sugar is implicated. We know that metabolic syndrome is a strong predictor of heart disease. Consuming too many added sugars also can lead to excess weight gain, which strains the heart. Diabetes, which affects 25.8 million Americans, is of equal concern to public health. Diabetes can cause kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and blindness, and doubles the risk of colon and pancreatic cancers. Diabetes is strongly associated with coronary artery disease and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also a discriminatory disease: compared to white adults, the risk of being diagnosed with diabetes is 18% higher among Asian Americans, 66% higher among Hispanics and 77% higher among African-Americans.
Scientists are actively studying a wide
range of health problems that may be
linked to the overconsumption of added sugars, including the following:
– Cancer: High intakes of sugars and
refined carbohydrates have been linked to increased risk of some cancers, as well as to higher rates of recurrence and lower rates of survival after cancer therapy.
– Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss: Excess sugar consumption was linked to deficiencies in memory and overall cognitive health.
– Aging: Scientists have observed links
between sugar consumption and the
aging of our cells, as well as skin
While it is still too soon to confirm
whether these are also linked to the
overconsumption of added sugars, new
findings are being published all the