The Most Dangerous Food Additive

Just because a food additive is poured into most of the foods we eat doesn’t mean it’s harmless. The Food and Drug Administration maintains a list of permitted food additives called Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). But food manufacturers have undermined the alleged safety of GRAS ingredients by marketing processed foods that overdose us with some of these substances.

In fact, one of the most common food additives is now being recognized as one of the most dangerous.

Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) shows that this additive leads the body to produce a small molecule that can fatally stress the heart. The body makes a metabolite from this ingredient that changes the proteins of the heart muscle, impairs the heart’s pumping action and potentially leads to heart failure.1 And the average American eats about 80 pounds of this additive a year, an average of more than 22 teaspoons a day!2

The destructive additive is sugar. Although most people realize that sugar doesn’t do anything good for health, they fail to appreciate how much damage it can do.

Adding Insult to Injury

The Texas research that examined sugar’s impact on heart failure turned up newly discovered and deeply troubling cardiac side effects linked to sugar. Heart failure kills around 5 million Americans annually, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The one-year survival rate for someone diagnosed with heart failure is only 50 percent. Approximately 550,000 people are diagnosed with heart failure each year.

Many of us have already put our hearts at risk by being overweight, not getting enough exercise and neglecting fruits and vegetables that contain heart-healthy phytonutrients. Add sugar to that equation and you risk health disaster. And sugar is everywhere in the processed foods we consume, in ketchup, salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, soft drinks, fruit juice, energy drinks, sweetened coffee, bread, muffins…

“When the heart muscle is already stressed from high blood pressure or other diseases, and then takes in too much glucose, it adds insult to injury,” warns researcher Heinrich Taegtmeyer a professor of cardiology at the UTHealth Medical School.

Sugar Alert

The Texas study linking sugar to heart failure is only the latest in a string of research that has accelerated concern about the amount of sugar Americans eat.

The studies linking sugar to health problems have become so alarming, that some health experts are calling for control of this ingredient the same way we control alcohol and tobacco. A group of public health scientists that includes endocrinologists and sociologists argue that the global pandemic of obesity is linked to sugar and that sugar now significantly contributes to 35 million deaths a year worldwide. They estimate that 75 percent of our healthcare spending is devoted to dealing with diabetes, heart disease and cancer, conditions that are all caused or worsened by sugar consumption.3

Globally, the consumption of sugar has tripled in the past 50 years.
According to researchers:

* Lab studies on sugar show that it can be addictive, changing the structure of the brain and causing surges of dopamine, a brain chemical that affects the brain’s neurological structures. These developments are similar to brain changes observed in addiction to cocaine and heroin.4

* Merely drinking a single 12 ounce sugar-sweetened beverage daily can increase a man’s risk of heart disease by 20 percent. The sugar in that daily drink significantly increases C-reactive protein (a sign of increased heart inflammation), increases triglycerides (harmful blood fats) and reduces HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). 5

* If your blood sugar tends to be on the high end of what doctors consider a “normal” level, you run an increased risk of dementia and brain shrinkage as you age.6

You probably already know that sugar is “empty calories.” But those so-called empty calories are full of danger to your health. It can’t be said enough: If you value your health, cut back on sugar.


  1. http://www.uthouston.edu/
  2. http://www.heart.org/
  3. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v482/n7383/full/482027a.html
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17617461
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22412070
  6. http://www.neurology.org/content/79/10/1019