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Results from a recent study that lasted more than 25 years and involved more than 80,000 women ages 30 to 55 revealed that those who eat a lot of red meat—along with processed meats and high-fat dairy products—have a higher risk of developing heart disease.

Specifically, said researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, women who consume a diet high in red meat experience more heart attacks and have a higher death rate from heart disease when compared with those who tend to consume leaner protein sources such as fish, poultry, nuts and low-fat dairy products.

The data confirm previous findings about the relationship between diet and heart disease, and scientists hope that more studies like this one will increase awareness about the importance of developing healthy eating habits. Among the recommendations were simple changes such as swapping ham and cheese for a peanut butter and banana sandwich, and opting for veggie burgers instead of beef.

In addition to promoting heart health, a diet that includes plenty of lean protein sources as well as fiber-rich fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains has been shown to support optimal weight management and healthy blood sugar, both of which may help combat the high rates of obesity and obesity-related disease so prominent in the United States.

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Americans love sugar. According to the USDA, each of us consumes more than 150 pounds of added sugar every year (or about 50 teaspoons daily), making the United States the largest consumer of sweeteners worldwide.

So where does most of this sugary goodness come from? Mainly from heavily processed snack foods, baked goods and soft drinks all loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS is a highly refined sweetener made from corn starch, and one that is widely used by food manufacturers because it is inexpensive to produce and transport.

The problem, experts say, comes with the health risks associated with HFCS and how it works in the body. Put simply, it affects healthy blood sugar levels and insulin regulation, which helps to explain why a diet high in HFCS has been linked to increased risk of obesity and obesity-related disease. And now scientists have found another reason to caution Americans against the common sweetener.

A recent study found that pancreatic cancer cells use fructose to multiply in the body, which supports previous studies that have linked a high-HFCS diet with higher rates of pancreatic cancer. It has to do with how fructose and glucose—the two main components of HFCS—are metabolized in the body, and scientists found that cancer cells had an easier time metabolizing fructose in order to thrive.

More research is planned to help scientists better understand the relationship between sugar metabolism and increased cancer risk, but experts hope that studies like this one will increase awareness about the dangers of eating too much sugar.

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