The One Thing That Can Make Even the Healthiest Diet Actually Unhealthy, According to Science

Even if you're the picture of health, eating too much of this one sneaky ingredient could put you, your liver, and your heart in serious risk.

DietRossHelen/shutterstockModeration in all things—that’s the key to health. Yet trying to be moderate about sugar is nearly impossible when food makers stuff it into everything from oatmeal to spaghetti sauce—check out these surprising sources of sugar. Now, you’ve got more motivation than ever to track down all the sneaky sugar foods in your diet: According to new research conducted at the University of Surrey and published in the journal Clinical Science, your sugar intake can fatten up your liver and dramatically raise your risk of heart disease—here are the signs you’re eating too much sugar.

In the study, researchers observed two groups of men for 12 weeks—one with high levels of liver fat, and the other with low. The men followed either a high-sugar or low-sugar diet so the researchers could determine the impact of sugar on the liver. A fatty liver can not only lead to liver disease, but it can alter fat metabolism in the body, raising the risk of damage to the heart and overall cardiovascular system.

Sure enough, men with fatty livers began to metabolize fat in ways that upped their risk of heart attacks and strokes. Even worse, the high-sugar diet triggered similarly dangerous fat metabolism in men with normal levels of liver fat—their risk of heart disease jumped as high as if they already had fatty, damaged livers. In other words, the results indicate that eating high amounts of sugar alone raises your risk of cardiovascular disease—no matter how healthy your body might be.

If you want to root out the sugar in your diet, the simplest way is to avoid pre-made, processed food. Whip up your own meals with whole ingredients and your sugar intake will drop dramatically overnight. When you do shop, make sure you know all the pseudonyms for sugar. Lactose, brown rice syrup, molasses, and dextrose, are just some of its many forms. Another important step is to identify the biggest culprits, like sauces, salad dressings, breads, flavored coffees, and granola bars. You can avoid donuts, candy bars, gummy bears, and sodas all day long and still eat far more sugar than is healthy for your heart.

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Alexa Erickson
Alexa Erickson is a lifestyle and news writer currently working with Reader's Digest, SHAPE Magazine, and various other publications. She loves writing about science news, health, wellness, food and drink, beauty, fashion, home decor, and her travels. Visit her site Living by Lex.