Heart and Vascular Health Cholesterol and Sugar: Is Something Sweet Turning Your Cholesterol Sour? By Heart and Vascular Institute, June 20, 2018 Added sugars are found in processed foods and beverages, from donuts sitting in the break room to the soft drink that gets you through your 2 p.m. slump, and the bowl of ice cream you enjoy before going to bed. And they could be affecting your cholesterol levels as well as your weight. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the typical American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar each day, which is equivalent to 350 calories. These extra calories could spell trouble for your cholesterol. If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute to meet with a doctor. Can Sugar Affect Cholesterol Levels? A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that as sugar intake increased, HDL or good cholesterol levels decreased. In addition, triglycerides — fats that pose a cardiovascular risk — increased. An increased intake of refined carbohydrates and added sugars have the biggest impact on triglycerides. Low levels of HDL and high levels of triglycerides are signs of poor cholesterol levels. The study also found that women who eat more added sugar tend to have higher levels of LDL. RELATED: Take Our 7-Day Heart Health Challenge How to Limit Sugar in Your Diet One way to limit your intake of added sugars is to cut back on the amount of sugar-sweetened drinks, cookies, cake, and candy that you consume. According to the American Heart Association, women should limit added sugar intake to not more than 100 calories, or 6 teaspoons, every day. Men should consume no more than 150 calories, or 9 teaspoons, of added sugar daily. To satisfy a sweet tooth, eat more fruits which are naturally sweetened. To help curb your appetite and avoid sugar cravings, drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages like juices and sodas. Diet Changes Can Help Lower Cholesterol If you have high cholesterol, limiting the amount of sugar you eat is a great way to improve your diet. Other ways to help lower your high cholesterol include: Avoiding saturated fats Losing weight if you’re overweight Getting regular exercise Limiting behaviors like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and unhealthy eating If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute to meet with a doctor.