nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Using Alternative Sugars In Food Makes Your Cholesterol Worse?

Increasing use of caloric sweeteners--natural ones like fructose and sucrose--does bad things to your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but how bad is it, really?

A cross-sectional study of 6,000 US adults published in the Journal of the AMA (Apr 21), looks at  cholesterol-type lipids and the use of sweeteners.

Americans are using more sweeteners. Note that we are not talking about Splenda, or other artificial sweeteners, just the caloric ones--those that have calories and are made from other kinds of sugar:  sugar beets, corn, etc, as opposed to sugar cane.  Caloric sweeteners are normally not added by you, but by the food processor or preparer.  The study showed that these added sweeteners now account for "15.8% of total daily caloric intake."

If  overuse of these sweeteners increases the level of cholesterol and fats in our bloodstream it could increase the risk of cardiovascular (CV) disease.

The researchers picked the three components of our lipid biochemistry that have been associated with CV risk.  The bad cholesterol (LDL), the good cholesterol (HDL), and triglycerides (saturated fat).  In the ideal situation, a doctor would prescribe in such a way as to decrease LDL, increase HDL, and decrease triglycerides in order to minimize risk, using diet, exercise, or drugs (or a combination).

To stratify increasing levels of sweetener intake, the study separated the subjects into four groups based on amount of sweetener consumed:  those who consumed less than 5% of daily calories in sweeteners, those who were between 5 and 17.5%, 17.5% to 25%, and 25% and above.  As one goes from the low-end group to the top-end group the bad cholesterol goes up, the good cholesterol goes down, and triglycerides increase.  The interesting exception was no change was found in LDL in men as sweetener percentage increased.

For Onion Peelers (math) ,
Results for the four groups (less than 5%, 5%- 17.5%, 17.5%- 25%, and 25% or greater of total energy as added sugars), adjusted mean HDL-C levels were, respectively, 58.7, 57.5, 53.7, 51.0, and 47.7 mg/dL (P < .001 for linear trend), geometric mean triglyceride levels were 105, 102, 111, 113, and 114 mg/dL (P < .001 for linear trend), and LDL-C levels modified by sex were 116, 115, 118, 121, and 123 mg/dL among women (P = .047 for linear trend). There were no significant trends in LDL-C levels among men.

There are a lot of things that influence CV risk and blood lipid is only one:  it's not time to panic.  Also, take a closer look at those numbers.  They are all statistically significant...BUT, a rise from 105 to 114, between 5% and over 25% of daily calories?  That's a pretty small change.  The change in the other variables was similarly small.

There are data in the literature that can tell you how much longer (on average) you will live if you reduce a risk factor by X amount.  I did a literature search, and while estimates vary, I'm thinking that if you really worked hard at this you will live about 3 months longer than otherwise.

Note that this is in isolation.  If you combine this degree of increased risk with obesity, hypertension, and smoking, then the combined impact can be much greater...years.

Bottom line, we don't need to pursue increased taste sensation from sweeteners.  So, use common sense and don't let the food industry manipulate your choice.  Make your own reasonable choice, but don't go nuts over it.

PS:  I have no clue why LDL in men didn't follow the trend.

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