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The sweet secret that could kill you

By Jennifer Caudle
updated 8:09 AM EST, Wed February 5, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dr. Jennifer Caudle looks at how our daily rituals are putting way too much sugar into our bodies
  • New study shows many Americans consume more than 10% of their calories from added sugar
  • Excessive sugar consumption increases chances of cardiovascular disease, death

Editor's note: Jennifer Caudle, D.O., is a board-certified family medicine physician and assistant professor of family medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in New Jersey. She offers her medical advice for CNN's "New Day," "The Dr. Oz Show" and other media outlets. She can be followed on Twitter @DrJenCaudle.

(CNN) -- You eat too much sugar. I know you don't think so, but you do.

Look at your daily ritual: Coffee with two packets of sugar in the morning, maybe with a bagel or doughnut or yogurt. A soda with your salad for lunch and maybe a cookie for dessert.

We're not even to dinner yet and already you've already had more sugar than you need.

Sugar not only makes you fat, it may make you sick

We're talking about added sugar here, the sugar in processed and manufactured foods -- sugary drinks, sodas and juices, cakes and cookies, candy, processed cereals, salad dressings and breads.

Dr. Jennifer Caudle
Dr. Jennifer Caudle

This is different from naturally occurring sugar, the stuff you find in an apple or orange or ear of corn. Added sugar is often what manufacturers put in to make food taste better. But a new study says that extra sugar could be killing you.

America is eating way too much added sugar and a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows it. Researchers set out to evaluate how much sugar participants consume and look at the association between added sugar consumption and cardiovascular mortality.

Most adults in the study, which looked at average adult sugar consumption between 2005 and 2010, ate or drank more than 10% of their total calories in added sugar. About one in 10 adults took in 25% or more of calories from added sugar. Not good.

The Institute of Medicine says that our daily sugar intake should not be more than 25% of total calories consumed. The World Health Organization says this number should be no more than 10%. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons or 24 grams (100 calories a day) of sugar for women and no more than 9 teaspoons or 36 grams (150 calories day) for men.

Using this model, let's go back and take a look at your daily food intake.

Breakfast:
Coffee w/2 packets of sugar = 8 grams of sugar
Bagel / Doughnut = 6 grams / 10 grams of sugar

Lunch:
Salad w/4T Caesar dressing = 2 grams of sugar
Soda (12 oz) = 35 grams of sugar
Chocolate chip cookie = 5 grams of sugar
Total = 56-60 grams of sugar

AHA recommendation = 24 grams/day (women), 36 grams/day (men)

According to this recommendation you would have exceeded your sugar allotment by noon. That's before your afternoon snack or big dinner.

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As a doctor, I see the consequences of excessive sugar intake every day. I have adult obese patients -- those with a body mass index of 30 or higher. For a man 5-feet-9-inches tall, that's about 40 pounds or more over his ideal weight for his height, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But even more frightening are the morbidly obese children I see. They are starting too early down the wrong, deadly path.

Obesity is a multifactorial condition and can't be blamed solely on excessive sugar intake, but it certainly plays a pretty major factor. Then there are patients with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Many studies have shown a direct association between excess sugar and these conditions.

This particular study takes this one step further by suggesting that increased added sugar causes increased cardiovascular mortality. In the study, those who consumed approximately 17% to 21% of calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of cardiovascular disease mortality -- that means death because of heart or blood vessel failure -- than those who consumed approximately 8% of calories from added sugar.

But studies are one thing. Real life is another. When you see a grandmother who has lost her foot because of poor circulation as a result of diabetes, it is sad. When she comes in with her grandson who is 50 pounds overweight and needs medicine to treat his hypertension, it is a downright tragedy.

This is a wake-up call. America, it's time to cut back on added sugars. Limit your intake of soda and other sugary drinks such as fruit juices. Look at the labels on that bottle of green tea or so-called energy bar, there is likely sugar there, too.

Minimize the intake of processed foods. Eat fresh fruits. Look for yourself to see how much sugar is in the foods that you are eating.

What you find may surprise you, and may be killing you.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dr. Jennifer Caudle.

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