How too much sugar harms the heart

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Sugar stresses the heart, find University of Texas researchers

Consuming a diet high in sugar and starch may not be just about weight watching. New research has uncovered how carbohydrates and sugar damage the heart to lead to congestive heart failure.

Researchers at University of Texas found a protein can accumulate in the heart from sugar overload that makes the heart pump less efficiently.

Glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate (G6P) generate by too much sugar puts extra stress on the heart that can be particularly dangerous for anyone with existing heart disease.

The finding might also explain why poor blood sugar control with diabetes is linked to higher rates of congestive heart failure.

Congestive heart failure kills 5 million people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).


The discovery that the sugar metabolite glucose 6-phosphate (G6P) leads to heart damage came about from animal experiments and samples of heart tissue taken from patients at the Texas Heart Institute.

Heinrich Taegtmeyer, M.D., D.Phil., principal investigator and professor of cardiology at the UT Health Medical School said in a press release, “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.”

Taegtmeyer says heart failure is difficult to manage. Treatment involves salt and fluid restriction and medications that boost the pumping activity of the heart in addition to fluid pills.

Patients are advised to monitor their weight closely for signs of volume overload that can lead to swelling, low energy and shortness of breath. Severe fluid buildup in the lungs can become a medical emergency.

“But we still have these terrible statistics and no new treatment for the past 20 years,” he says.

Taegtmeyer say the immunosuppressant drug rapamycin that has been studied for its anti-aging properties and the diabetes drug metformin disrupt signaling of G6P to improve the heart’s function in animals.

Understanding how too much sugar and carbohydrates destroy heart function to lead to congestive heart failure means new treatment is possible.