Sugar, Hearts & Holidays

by | Dec 18, 2014 | Diet & Nutrition, General Health, Oral Health

Christmas goodiesWe’ve heard it so much for so long, nothing could seem truer than the “fact” that too much salt means high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. But new research adds yet more evidence that when it comes to cardiovascular health, sugar has a lot more to do with it.

Ah, yes – sugar, the familiar foe we’ve written about time and again, with respect to both oral and systemic health.

Writing in BMJ Open Heart, the authors of the paper note that the main sources of dietary sodium are “industrially processed foods” – foods which are also very high in added sugars.

Evidence from epidemiological studies and experimental trials in animals and humans suggests that added sugars, particularly fructose, may increase blood pressure and blood pressure variability, increase heart rate and myocardial oxygen demand, and contribute to inflammation, insulin resistance and broader metabolic dysfunction. Thus, while there is no argument that recommendations to reduce consumption of processed foods are highly appropriate and advisable, the arguments in this review are that the benefits of such recommendations might have less to do with sodium—minimally related to blood pressure and perhaps even inversely related to cardiovascular risk—and more to do with highly-refined carbohydrates. (emphasis added)

Of course, this isn’t exactly the time of year when you want to hear such things. During end-of-year celebrations in particular, cookies, cakes, pies, candy and all manner of sweets tend to dominate. Highly-refined carbs are everywhere!

So does the latest bad news about sugar mean you should completely, totally, 100% avoid all the sweet goodies brought out and shared at parties and family gatherings?

Not necessarily.

It’s important to remember that food isn’t just about fueling the body and delivering nutrients. It feeds heart, mind and soul, as well. It has crucial social and cultural aspects. As Michael Pollan puts it in the introduction to his book Cooked,

The shared meal is no small thing. It is a foundation of family life, the place where our children learn the art of conversation and acquire the habits of civilization: sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating difference, arguing without offending.

Sharing food and eating together is one of the ways we strengthen and sustain our ties. They are ways of creating and maintaining community. Nowhere do we see this better than during the holidays.

So instead of all-or-nothing, aim for balance and moderation. Enjoy some seasonal treats. Savor traditional foods. Enjoy the holidays. Positive, loving relationships support good health, too – as does keeping healthful eating the rule throughout the year.

Happy and healthy holidays
from Pride Dental!

We’ll be back to our regular blogging schedule on Thursday, January 8.

Image by Andrew Schaefer

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