The diet habit exercise can’t save your heart from

Who among us hasn’t gone on a sweets-eating binge? I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done it. Life gets tough, and sweets are a comfort.

But soon after the regret sets in, and I head for the treadmill and walk, and walk …

Chances are I haven’t done too much harm in the weight department.

But if you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you know other more serious risks come from sugar.

And if sugar-sweetened drinks are something you indulge in on a regular basis,  beware…

There are heart health risks associated with that diet habit that no amount of exercise can undo…

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Deceptively dangerous

Too much sugar is bad for your heart.

But in 1954, the Sugar Research Foundation paid $50,000 in today’s dollars for a study that tried to discredit this well-researched fact.


If Americans could be persuaded that eating a lower-fat diet was good for their health, they’d eat less fat and more sugar. It’s easy to see the economic gains.

But sugar has many indirect connections to the heart.

One is how the liver metabolizes sugar the same way as alcohol and converts dietary carbohydrates to fat. This leads to a greater accumulation of fat which may turn into fatty liver, a contributor of diabetes which raises the risk for heart disease.

Can exercise undo the effects of sugary drinks?

In a word… NO.

We know that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

But the sugar industry would have you think otherwise.

“The marketing strategies for these drinks often show active people drinking these beverages. It suggests that sugary drink consumption has no negative effects on health if you’re physically active.

“Our research aimed to assess this hypothesis,” says Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier, professor at Université Laval’s Faculty of Pharmacy and co-author of a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study followed about 100,000 adults for a period of thirty years. The resulting data showed that people who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages even just twice a week had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, regardless of their level of physical activity.

Drink them daily? The cardiovascular risk goes even higher.

So you may be able to exercise away some of those excess calories from soda and other sweetened drinks, but exercise won’t reduce the risks to your heart.

And if you think artificial sweeteners may be a safer bet, think again. Both sugar and the fake stuff have been tied to AFib.

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Giving up sugary drinks turns things around fast

This research included carbonated drinks (with or without caffeine), lemonade, and fruit cocktails. The study did not specifically consider energy drinks, but that doesn’t mean they don’t contribute to the problem.

To get an idea, a 12 oz soda can contains from 39 to 77 grams of sugar. A 20 oz bottle of Minute Maid lemonade contains about 67 grams. And that Red Bull? 27 grams in 8 oz.

Sure, added sugar is everywhere from bread to sauces and soups to peanut butter. But giving up these drinks is where you should start.

And the good news is, you can see an improvement in metabolic health in a relatively short period of time when you do…

Along the path to sabotaging your heart, sugar drives fatty liver. Worst-case scenario, one sugar-sweetened beverage a day skyrocketed the risk of liver cancer in women.

But researchers have seen that when people cut back on sugary drinks for 9 nine days, they reduced liver fat and lowered blood sugar. The ripple effect was nothing but positive on heart health either.

Now some people may take this news as an all-clear just to switch to artificially sweetened drinks, but you’d only be switching from one poison to another.

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Physical activity is insufficient to counter cardiovascular risk associated with sugar-sweetened beverage consumption — Eureka Alert

Sugar-sweetened or artificially-sweetened beverage consumption, physical activity, and risk of cardiovascular disease in adults: a prospective cohort study — American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Eating too much added sugar increases the risk of dying with heart disease — Harvard Medical School

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.