Sugar and your heart

Sugar Eating too much sugar can cause you to gain weight.  If you're overweight or obese you're more likely to develop coronary heart disease than someone who is a healthy weight. 

So to keep your heart healthy, it's important to watch the sugar in your diet.


Even if you’re at a healthy weight, you should still keep an eye on how much sugar you’re eating, to make sure you get a balanced diet.

Find out more about how your how your weight affects your risk of heart disease, healthy weight loss and eating a healthy balanced diet

Should I cut out sugar?

All foods - including sugar - can be included in a healthy diet, you just need to make sure you get the right balance.

In the UK, dietary surveys show most people eat too much sugar. As sugar is contained in many of the foods we eat, most people eat too much sugar without realising

Sugar basics

Most foods contain several different types of sugar.  Foods such as fruit, vegetables and milk contain sugar within their structure (sometimes called intrinsic sugars), but as these foods contain a lot of useful nutrients, you don't need to cut down on them.

Most people need to cut down on free sugars. These are the sugars found in your food that aren't contained within the structure of the food. 

This includes the sugars:
  • contained within ready-made foods like ready meals, cakes and sugary fizzy drinks (added by the manufacturer)
  • you use while making or preparing your own food,
  • that are found in honey, syrup and unsweetened fruit juice.

A quick guide to some common foods

Food item   Sugar source What can I do?
Sugar sweetened drinks (fizzy drinks)
All of the sugars are likely to be added free sugars 

Swap to water, 'diet', sugar free or no added sugar drinks

Cakes, puddings, biscuits, sweets, chocolate, honey, syrup, jams, spreads
All or most of the sugars are likely to be added free sugars Eat these foods just occasionally as a treat
Sugary breakfast cereals Some may have sugars from added dried fruit, but all or most of the sugars are likely to be added free sugars

Eat these foods just occasionally or swap to a no added sugar version

Fruit juice, smoothies   All of the sugars are free sugars, released from the fruit during juicing

Read our guidance on juices and smoothies

Fruit yogurt or fromage frais  The sugars are a mix of added free sugars (about two thirds) and sugars from the fruit and milk (about one third) 

Enjoy some of the time, or swap to a no added sugar version

Plain or 'diet' fruit yogurt, no added sugar The sugars are from milk and whole fruit so these are not free sugars Enjoy, these are a healthy choice
 Fruit or fresh fruit salad   The sugar is found within the structure of the fruit Enjoy, these are a healthy choice

How much is too much sugar?

Free sugars shouldn’t make up more than 5 per cent of the energy (calories) you get from food. For adults, that adds up to about 30g a day.

Children should eat less free sugars than adults, according to their age.

Age    Max. free sugars per day
4 – 6 years 19g
7 – 10 years  24g
Adults and young people over 11  30g

Cutting down on sugar

Reading the labels on your food can help you work out how much sugar you’re eating.

Get our free food labelling guide for more information

Many food labels list total sugars rather than free sugars so it can be tricky to work out what type of sugars you're eating.

Watch out for the following names for sugars that can be used on food labels which suggest there are added free sugars in the product: 

  • Cane juice, sugar, or crystals  
  • Honey 
  • Dextrose or dextrin
  • Fructose or fruit juice concentrate 
  • Glucose
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar (palm, raw, beet, brown, invert)
  • Syrup (corn, maple, rice, barley, malt) 
  • Treacle 
  • Xylose

Sugar in the news

You may have seen reports in the news linking eating too much sugar directly with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). 

While we know that eating too much sugar can lead to you becoming overweight or obese, which increases your risk of CVD, we think further research is needed to confirm a direct link between sugar and CVD. Find out more

What are we doing to help people reduce their risk of heart disease?

We are committed to sharing our knowledge and expertise to prevent heart disease devastating people’s lives. 

As well as supporting individuals manage their weight and reduce their risk of heart disease, we’re calling on the Government to introduce a range of measures including:

  • tighter restrictions on junk food marketing to children across all forms of media, including a 9pm watershed ban for junk food adverts on TV
  • introducing an excise duty of a 20p tax per litre of sugary sweetened beverages
  • working with industry to reduce portion sizes.

Find out more about our policies