I discovered this article on CNN Health through a link posted by @Tom Watkins on Twitter.
It’s about the impact of sugar on blood-fat profiles (known as ‘lipid profiles’) and cardiovascular risks, and it’s scary!
Now everyone knows that too much sugar is bad for you. But runners typically get to benefit from the equation
Calories In <= Calories Out
In other words, if you consume extra calories, you can just run them off!
Had an extra portion at a business dinner? Run it off the next day! Co-worker brought snacks in to a meeting? Run them off! Need a Coke and a candy bar in the middle of the afternoon for a pick-me-up? Hold that thought!!!
Here’s what the study in the article found:
The strongest relationship between added sugar and blood fats was found in values for HDL-C, which fell from 58.7 mg/dl for those who ate the least added sugar to 47.7 mg/dl for those who ate the most. A higher HDL-C level is associated with a lower cardiovascular risk.
Among some blood fats linked to higher cardiovascular risk, the converse was true: Triglyceride levels went from 105 mg/dl in the group that ate the least sugar to 114 mg/dl in the group that ate the most. The so-called bad cholesterol, LDL-C, went from 116 mg/dl for women who ate the least sugar to 123 mg/dl for women who ate the most. There were no significant trends for LDL-C among men.
Ouch! That’s a double-whammy!! Sugar makes your good cholesterol go down and your triglycerides and bad cholesterol go up!
And the problem, even for runners, is that sugar is processed so quickly, chances are you’re not running it off before it starts affecting you.
But wait, there’s more!
Data from the mid-1990s show that 15.8 percent of the typical American’s diet was composed of added sugar — 21.4 teaspoons or 359 calories per day. That’s up from 10.6 percent in 1977–1978.
And in the study cited in the article, the study participants that were in the highest-consuming added sugar group ate about 46 teaspoons of added sugar per day! Try to visualize that. If you need help, take a look at this article on thediabetescouncil which shows you how much sugar is found in common drinks (one can of Coke has about 10 teaspoons!).
Added sugar is everywhere you look. Yes, you can avoid sodas and chocolate bars and candy. But how about ketchup, spaghetti sauce on your pre-race pasta dinner, and the runner favorite Gatorade? All of these have added sugar in the form of “caloric sweeteners,” the most common of which is corn syrup. And even if you can control your sugar intake, do you know how much sugar your children are eating every day?
So what’s a runner and a concerned parent to do?
“What it really means is we have to go back to things like whole grains and vegetables and fruit and eat things in moderation in order to be healthy,” [study co-author Dr. Miriam B.] Vos said. “Plus, a good healthy dose of activity.”
What that means is just because you can run a marathon (or a half, or a 10K…) doesn’t mean you can balance excess with excess. Excess non-nutritional caloric intake balanced by excess distance does not a healthy runner make! If you achieve balance by putting too much on both sides, your balance may break.