How Much Does Your Sugar Intake Impact Your Cholesterol Level?

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It’s well known that adopting a low-fat diet is a vital step in combating high cholesterol. But did you know that consuming too much sugar also contributes to high cholesterol? And that most Americans consumer far too much sugar on a daily basis? To effectively fight high cholesterol, it’s important to monitor both fat and sugar in the diet.

Isn’t A Low-Fat Diet The Key To Fighting High Cholesterol?

A low-fat diet and daily exercise are the first line of defense in minimizing heart disease risk by lowering high cholesterol. Consuming a diet high in saturated and trans-fats raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol, so certainly, a diet low in saturated and trans-fats is vital. However, these ‘bad’ fats are not the whole story – too much sugar in even a low-fat diet will elevate triglycerides, and high triglycerides are another facet to the cholesterol and heart disease risk equation.

What Cholesterol Measures Does Sugar Affect?

Though researchers are not sure exactly why, it’s been proven that eating a lot of sugar raises cholesterol and triglycerides. As explained on WebMD’s The Truth About Sugar, “Researchers have found a link between sugar and unhealthy levels of blood fats. ‘There’s an association between added sugar intake and what we call dyslipidemia — higher triglycerides and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol,’ says Rachel K. Johnson, RD, MPH, PhD, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association (AHA).”

Where’s The Proof That Sugar Raises Cholesterol?

Many are surprised to hear that they should monitor sugar as well as fat intake to lower cholesterol. But the link with excessive sugar and poor LDL cholesterol and high triglycerides was proven in an Emory University study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in April 2010. More than 6,000 American men and women were studied between 1999 and 2006. They were divided into five groups according to how much sugar they consumed daily, ranging from a low of 3 teaspoons daily (representing 5% of daily calories) to a high of 46 teaspoons per day (or 25% or more of daily calories); those who ate more sugar were more likely to have higher cardiovascular disease risk factors.

“Just like eating a high-fat diet can increase your levels of triglycerides and high cholesterol, eating sugar can also affect those same lipids,” says study co-author Miriam Vos, MD, MSPH, assistant professor of pediatrics, Emory School of Medicine, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta physician.”

How Much Sugar Is OK Per Day?

The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 6 teaspoons of sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men, which equates to about 100 calories per day from sugar for women, or 150 calories per day for men. It’s important to note these teaspoon/calorie guidelines are not just for the sugar that you add to your tea or coffee. These guidelines are for total sugar consumption; the goal is to limit to no more than six (or nine) teaspoons of sugar per day from everything you consume. This level of sugar intake is far lower than what most Americans consumer – consider that just one can of soda has eight teaspoons of sugar and you can see the problem.


Cutting back on saturated and trans-fats is not enough in the fight to lower cholesterol; a serious look at how much sugar – and how much hidden sugar – is consumed daily is an important part of a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Did You Know?

Americans currently consume an average of 22 teaspoons per day of sugar, the equivalent of 355 calories, much of which comes from sugars added to. Eliminating sugared drinks – and minimizing sweets – are relatively simple but vital steps that will help lower daily sugar intake.


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