Does Sugar Intake Raise Cholesterol Levels?

The results of cholesterol tests reveal the amount of low-density lipoprotein, also called LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein, also known as HDL or "good" cholesterol, in your bloodstream. It also indicates your level of triglycerides, a type of fat that, like LDL cholesterol, tends to clog your arteries. Your sugar intake could raise your triglycerides and lead to weight gain that also adversely affects your cholesterol levels.

A woman is holding sugar cubes in her palms. Credit: Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock/Getty Images

Diet and Cholesterol

A diet high in dietary cholesterol and saturated fat -- found primarily in animal products -- could raise your LDL cholesterol levels. Trans fat, a fat produced when turning vegetable oil into solid margarine or shortening, might raise your triglycerides and lower your heart-protective HDL cholesterol as well. Sugar and alcohol also can raise your triglycerides. Many sources of added sugar -- soft drinks, cookies and candy, for instance -- provide mostly empty calories. These choices do not really fill you up, so you tend to add them to your diet rather than substitute them for more nutritious foods.

Added Sugars

The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 5 to 10 percent of your daily calories -- about 100 to 200 calories, based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. Limit consumption of regular soda to no more than 36 ounces a week. A single can of sugary cola contains about 135 calories. A teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories. Read product nutrition labels. Avoid products that list sugar as the first ingredient. If a single serving of a food item contains 6 teaspoons of sugar – about 24 grams – it provides nearly 100 calories.

Fructose

Many foods, including fruits, vegetables and milk, contain natural sugars, which have less of an impact on triglyceride levels than added sugars have. Nevertheless, the AHA cautions against consuming too much fructose-rich fruit, such as pineapples, raisins and watermelon. Limit your fructose consumption to 50 grams to 100 grams a day. The fiber in fruits can help lower your LDL cholesterol. Good choices include raspberries, bananas, apples and other fruits with edible seeds or skins.

Weight Gain

Carrying excess body weight can raise your LDL and triglyceride levels and lower your HDL cholesterol. Losing just 5 to 10 pounds can help control your cholesterol. If you consumed two regular sodas a day -- about 270 calories -- you could gain 1 pound every 13 days, based on the formula that 3,500 calories equals 1 pound. However, if you replaced two regular sodas with water, you could lose 10 pounds in about 18 weeks.

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If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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