Chances are you already know that eating too much sugar isn’t good for you. Yet you’re probably still overdoing it. Sugary drinks, candy, baked goods, and sweetened dairy are the main sources of added sugar. Added sugars can be hard to spot on nutrition labels since they can be listed under a number of names, such as corn syrup, agave nectar, palm sugar, cane juice, or sucrose.No matter the name, sugar is sugar, and it can negatively affect your body in many ways. Here’s a closer look at how sugar can affect your health negatively.
- What effect of sugar makes it harmful?
The amount of sugar a person should consume varies, depending on their sex and age. Sugar appears in our food in many forms, including sucrose, lactose, and fructose. Sweet as it is, it sometimes has a negative impact on our health. Let’s have a look at some of these:
- Can Cause Weight Gain- Rates of obesity are rising worldwide and added sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, is thought to be one of the main culprits. Sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas, juices and sweet teas are loaded with fructose, a type of simple sugar.
- Can drain your energy –Because your glucose levels spike and plummet, the unstable blood sugar can leave you experiencing mood swings, fatigue, and headaches. It also contributes to cravings, which begins the cycle of false hunger. By contrast, those who avoid sugar report having fewer cravings while feeling more emotionally balanced and energized.
- Sugar affects cognition in children.-Let’s not forget about our little ones! When New York City public schools reduced the amount of sugar in their lunches and breakfasts, their academic ranking increased by 15.7% (previously, the greatest improvement ever is seen had been 1.7%).11 The study also eliminated artificial colors, synthetic flavoring, and two preservatives, showing the importance of natural ingredients for children.
- Increases Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes– There is a clear link between excessive sugar consumption and diabetes risk. Obesity, which is often caused by consuming too much sugar, is considered the strongest risk factor for diabetes.Additionally, prolonged high-sugar consumption drives resistance to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance causes blood sugar levels to rise and strongly increases your risk of diabetes.
- Your immune function can be affected by sugar.-As if being sick wasn’t bad enough, studies have shown that sugar can interfere with the way your body fights disease. Bacteria and yeast feed on sugar, so excess glucose in the body causes these organisms to build up and cause infections.
- A high-sugar diet can lead to chromium deficiency.-Chromium, a trace mineral that helps regulate blood sugar in the body. While it can be found in meats, seafood, and plant foods, 90% of Americans still don’t get enough chromium because of refining searches.6 Other carbohydrates can also rob foods of their chromium supplies, so limiting your carbs is your best bet for increasing those mineral levels.
- Sugar accelerates aging.-While you probably know that sugars can affect your body composition, they can also mess with your skin by contributing to wrinkles and sagging. After sugar hits your bloodstream, it attaches to proteins. The mix of these proteins with sugar causes the skin to lose elasticity and leads to premature aging.
- Sugar causes tooth decay.-With all the other life-threatening effects of sugar, we sometimes forget the most basic cosmetic damage it does. When it sits on your teeth, sugar causes decay more efficiently than any other food.8 It’s important to brush your teeth at least twice a day to stop sugars from fueling plaque and bacteria.
- Sugar can cause gum disease, which can lead to heart disease.-Increasing evidence shows that chronic infections, like those that result from dental problems, play a role in the development of heart disease. It is believed that a connection stems from the body’s inflammatory response to infection. Luckily, this works both ways. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will decrease your risk of common illnesses, which reduces the chance that they’ll become a more serious condition later on.
- Sugar takes the place of important nutrients.- According to USDA data, people who consume the most sugar have the lowest intakes of essential nutrients––especially vitamins A, C, B-12, and calcium. This is because the body needs these vitamins to process the sugar which results in the body using up its reserves and therefore “negative calories” and loss of vitamins occur.The trade-off is especially dangerous for children and teens, because they simultaneously consume the most sugar and need the most nutrients.
- May Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease.-High-sugar diets have been associated with an increased risk of many diseases, including heart disease, the number one cause of death worldwide. Evidence suggests that high-sugar diets can lead to obesity, inflammation and high triglyceride, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels — all risk factors for heart disease.Additionally, consuming too much sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened drinks, has been linked to atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by fatty, artery-clogging deposits.
- Can cause Acne. Foods with a high glycemic index, such as processed sweets, raise your blood sugar more rapidly than foods with a lower glycemic index. Sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production, and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development.
- May Increase Your Risk of Cancer.-Eating excessive amounts of sugar may increase your risk of developing certain cancers.First, a diet rich in sugary foods and beverages can lead to obesity, which significantly raises your risk of cancer.Furthermore, diets high in sugar increase inflammation in your body and may cause insulin resistance, both of which increase cancer risk
- Can Accelerate the Skin Aging Process.-Wrinkles are a natural sign of aging. They appear eventually, regardless of your health. However, poor food choices can worsen wrinkles and speed the skin aging process.
- Increase kidney disease risk.-Having consistently high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the delicate blood vessels in your kidneys. This can lead to an increased risk of kidney disease.
- 15. Increase the risk of developing gout. Gout is an inflammatory condition characterized by pain in the joints. Added sugars raise uric acid levels in the blood, increasing the risk of developing or worsening gout.
- Accelerate cognitive decline: High-sugar diets can lead to impaired memory and have been linked to an increased risk of dementia.
- How can you reduce your sugar intake? Because excessive added sugar has many negative health effects and consuming small amounts now and then is perfectly healthy, you should try to cut back on sugar whenever possible. Simply focusing on eating whole, unprocessed foods automatically decreases the amount of sugar in your diet has huge gains.
Tips on how to reduce your intake of added sugars:
- Swap sodas, energy drinks, juices and sweetened teas for water or unsweetened seltzer.
- Drink your coffee black or use Stevia for a zero-calorie, natural sweetener.
- Sweeten plain yogurt with fresh or frozen berries instead of buying flavored, sugar-loaded yogurt.
- Consume whole fruits instead of sugar-sweetened fruit smoothies.
- Replace candy with a homemade trail mix of fruit, nuts and a few dark chocolate chips.
- Use olive oil and vinegar in place of sweet salad dressings like honey mustard.
- Choose marinades, nut butter, ketchup and marinara sauce with zero added sugars.
- Look for cereals, granolas and granola bars with under 4 grams of sugar per serving.
- Swap your morning cereal for a bowl of rolled oats topped with nut butter and fresh berries, or an omelet made with fresh greens.
- Instead of jelly, slice fresh bananas onto your peanut butter sandwich.
- Use natural nut butter in place of sweet spreads like Nutella.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages that are sweetened with soda, juice, honey, sugar or agave.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, focusing on fresh, whole ingredients.
- Eating fruit can help ensure a person gets enough fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However many fruits are high in natural sugars and may not be suitable for those looking to lower their sugar intake. Some low-sugar fruits include strawberries, peaches, blackberries, lemons, limes, honeydew melon, oranges, and grapefruit.
- Should we stop taking sugar?
Sugar is not unhealthful in itself. However, having excess sugar in the diet can cause a range of conditions, including heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes. To be aware of added sugars in food products, it is important to read labels carefully. Also, eliminating sugar from the diet can help prevent weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and other problems. For these reasons, added sugar should be kept to a minimum whenever possible, which is easy when you follow a healthy diet based on whole foods.
If you need to cut added sugar from your diet, try some of the small changes listed above. You will slowly realize that you don’t need as much sugar as you once did.
- Healthline(2018):11 Reasons Why Too Much Sugar Is Bad for You. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/too-much-sugar#section2
- Atkins (2019): 10 Reasons Why Sugar Is Bad for Your Health, Retrieved from https://www.atkins.com/how-it-works/library/articles/10-ways-sugar-harms-your-health
- WebMD: How Does Too Much Sugar Affect Your Body? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/how-sugar-affects-your-body
- Medical News Today (2019): 5 reasons why sugar is bad for you. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324854.php