In the fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel," the kids have an appetite for a house made of cake, with sugar windows and candy decorations, that leads them straight into the clutches of an evil hag.
In "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," Augustus Gloop nearly drowns in the Chocolate River, and Violet Beauregarde becomes a giant blueberry after chowing down a three-course-dinner gum.
But their fates were not nearly as bad as what added sugar intake does to your levels of good HDL cholesterol and potentially harmful triglycerides.
Research based on the Framingham Heart Study found that when people ages 40 and older drink 12 ounces a day of sugar-sweetened beverages — such as sodas, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks, and presweetened coffees and teas — it causes potentially heart-damaging changes in those blood lipid levels.
It isn't just because added sugar makes you gain weight (although it does, and obesity is very hard on the heart), it's that sugar itself inhibits an enzyme that breaks down triglycerides and lowers your level of healthy HDL, possibly by altering liver function.
Americans are sugar-crazed, consuming an average of 57 pounds of added sugar annually. And it's contributing to a whole roster of health woes, from angina and diabetes to a lousy sex life, increased cancer, dementia, and depression.
So, opt for water or unsweetened tea and coffee, and avoid processed foods.
Read ingredient lists and nutritional labels to see if there's added sugar — it gets added to everything from frozen green beans and pasta sauce to instant oatmeal and coleslaw.