Cut Kids Sugar to Cut Heart Risks
A new study suggests that just cutting sugar from the diet of children diagnosed with obesity, as opposed to focusing on weight loss or cutting carbs, has a direct impact on lowering triglyceride levels, and levels of a key protein called ApoC-III, both of which are markers of elevated heart disease risk in adulthood. The researchers actually called the study results astounding.
Until now, one of the cornerstones of reducing risk factors in children diagnosed with obesity was to nudge weight loss or to keep weight in a holding pattern, while they grow in height, so weight and height are in a healthier proportion. In order to see the kind of blood lipid response that was noted in this new study, researchers suggest that obese children would have to lose at least 20 percent of their weight.
The study involved 43 subjects, some African-American and some Hispanic, between the ages of nine and eighteen, diagnosed with obesity and at least one co-morbid condition (hypertension, high triglyceride level or elevated markers indicating fatty liver disease). Children from these groups have been identified in previous studies as being at higher risk of metabolic issues.
The children were monitored during a nine day period and allowed to eat their normal diet with one exception. All high sugary foods (processed yogurt, cake) were swapped out and replaced with starchy foods like pizza and bagels. Overall sugar consumption during the nine days dropped from 28 percent of total calorie intake to ten percent. Fructose intake, thanks to the food swaps, dropped from twelve percent to four percent of total daily calories.
Blood tests were done before and after the nine days. Results showed a 33% drop in triglyceride levels, and a 49% drop in ApoC-III. The researchers point out that statin medications help to lower LDL, the bad cholesterol, and only cut mortality from heart disease by about 50%. That leaves two other “bad guys” which contribute to heart disease, triglycerides and ApoC-III. The fact that dramatically reducing sugar consumption lowered these two blood markers so effectively in just nine days is huge. Limiting sugar in these children resulted in a 30% to 50% reduction of these markers.
The researchers also point out that many experts believe that LDL typically does its dirty work when it is packed into small dense bundles, called dense LDL. The reduction in sugar consumption during the nine day study also reduced levels of dense LDL.
It’s important to understand that once you eat sugar, it is metabolized and when stored, it becomes fat in the liver. The fat accumulates and is released in the bloodstream, and this process becomes a risk factor for heart disease. So despite the need to control overall calories in order to lose weight if you are overweight or obese, or want to maintain if you are at a healthy weight, it’s crucial to your health to also focus on the kinds of calories you are consuming. Sugar calories are driving obesity and they are also driving heart disease.
Foods high in sugar include:
• Desserts, puddings, snack cakes and pies
• Chocolates and candies
• Many cereals (cold and hot), cereal bars, and “healthy-sounding” cookies
• Juice, soda, bottled teas
• Many yogurts
• Canned and processed fruit products
• Processed nut milks (unless they are unsweetened), flavored milks
• Condiments like ketchup
• Spaghetti sauce and barbecue/teriyaki sauces