Say What?!* How Can My Sugar Intake Be Related To My Cholesterol?

Updated: Dec 12, 2018

News flash: the "high triglycerides" your doctor drew your attention to on your latest lab results are an indication of your body's declining ability to metabolize sugar, not to mention an increased risk of insulin resistance, obesity, cardiovascular disease, non-alcohol fatty liver disease, dementia, not to mention a whole host of other metabolic and inflammatory disorders.

It's true; Your body’s inability to metabolize sugar can adversely impact cholesterol levels.

To better understand how excessive sugar (or refined carbohydrates) intake can influence cholesterol let's take a closer look at what is really going on.

Consider for a moment all the forms of sugar you might consume on a given day whether it may be from more obvious sources such as desserts, soda or alcohol; or somewhat hidden sources such as packaged foods, sandwich bread, ketchup, or breakfast syrup; as well as the natural sugar found in fruits, vegetables, milk and honey.

Your body uses sugar for energy. The primary mechanism to deliver sugar into your cells for energy relies on the ability of your pancreas to produce and secrete insulin. You could think of insulin as the FedEx delivery truck delivering sugar to your cells. Your body also relies on working insulin receptors to essentially, meet the FedEx delivery and receive the package or, in this case glucose (i.e. sugar) and deliver it into the cell as fuel to generate energy.

When the amount of sugar you consume exceeds your body’s energy needs, your body is faced with a “sugar surplus.” Whether this surplus is relatively small or large, there are a few ways in which your body must deal with this "surplus." When it is overwhelmed repeatedly, insulin and the insulin receptors have a difficult time keeping up with the surge of activity. Chronic, excessive demands overwhelm your body’s ability to keep up with this surplus. Many of your body’s organs, and consequently your body’s functions, begin to suffer because of it. We begin to see evidence of this when we look at blood test results such as cholesterol profile or what is called a fractionated lipid analysis.

One of the ways in which this “sugar surplus” negatively impacts your body has to do with cholesterol levels and liver function. Because your liver is taxed with job of converting excess sugar to a form which can either be stored for future energy demands or into fatty acids (i.e. triglycerides), excessive sugar consumption will result in higher triglyceride levels. You can prevent high triglycerides by limiting the amount of sugar in your food and beverages. Keep a careful watch on how many of the foods you choose contain added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other refined sweeteners. Aim to replace refined and artificial sweeteners with more natural forms, but ultimately the goal is to tame those sugar cravings and consume less so as not to constantly overwhelm your body’s ability to metabolize excess sugar.