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Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are among the leading contributors to sugar intake among people living in the United States. Consumption of a single SSB induces acute endothelial dysfunction – the inability of the cells that line the blood vessels to maintain vascular tone and regulate blood flow and inflammation. A recent study found that exercise counteracts the harmful effects of regular SSB consumption in healthy young men.

High sugar intake is associated with several chronic diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. Some evidence suggests that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with abnormal blood lipid levels.

The study involved 22 healthy young men who were not regular exercisers. Three times a day for seven days, the men drank a beverage containing 75 grams of glucose (a type of sugar) – roughly equivalent to consuming a typical, large-sized sugar-sweetened soft drink. They ate their regular diet throughout the study period. On five of the seven days, half of the participants engaged in a 45-minute supervised exercise protocol on an exercise bike at 60 to 65 percent of their maximal heart rate.

The authors of the study found that the young men’s endothelial function was impaired in the non-exercising group following a week of SSB consumption, compared to their baseline function. However, the subjects who engaged in regular aerobic exercise did not experience impairments in endothelial function, suggesting that exercise offset some of the deleterious effects of regular sugar consumption.

Interestingly, sauna use elicits many of the beneficial effects of exercise. In fact, some evidence suggests that waon therapy, a form of thermal treatment commonly used in Japan, improves endothelial function in patients with ischemic heart disease. Read more about the benefits of waon and other thermal treatments in this overview article about sauna use.

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