Sugar-Coated Profits: Heart Disease Risk Linked to Sugar 50 Years Ago

Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? About 610,000 people a year die from heart disease. Do the math, and about 1 in 4 deaths, can be linked to heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s no secret that heart disease is highly preventable. Research shows that if you want to keep your heart healthy, lower your risk for a heart attack, and live longer, these lifestyle practices will make a difference:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, or lose weight if you need to.
  • Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day
  • Don’t smoke, or quit if you do.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol

If you dig into the details of what it means to eat a heart-healthy diet, you’ll find helpful advice about eating more fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and drinking plenty of water.

But what about foods you should limit or avoid? Like too much sugar. In a new study published in PLOS Biology, documents suggest that health experts recognized a link between sugar consumption and heart disease 50 years ago.

But the preliminary findings were silenced by lobbyists, big business, and manufacturers with a financial interest in profiting from selling sugary foods. “The sugar industry has maintained a very sophisticated program of manipulating scientific discussion around their product to steer discussion away from adverse health effects,” says University of California at San Francisco researcher Dr. Stanton Glantz. Why would companies that stand to profit from sugar sales want to hide this information?

“To make it as easy as possible for them to continue their position that all calories are equal and there’s nothing particularly bad about sugar,” says Stanton. Would heart disease, diabetes, and obesity be such chronic health problems today, if the warnings about sugar were widely shared decades ago? Maybe. You can’t change the past, but you can decide today to make smart food choices, enjoy the benefits of reducing sugar intake, and live a healthy lifestyle.