Ugh! Sugar! Sugar! Sugar! Time and often we listen to, or come across the most diabolic crisis moreover a mere word ‘sugar’. More or less the common norm is to avoid sugar as much as we can. But before avoiding the evil lets understand the basics first.
What is Sugar?
Sugar in simple terms is a fuel to our body named carbohydrates. Moreover, they are found in most plants, especially in sugar cane. As we all know plant based sugars such as fruits, beans, nuts, whole grains are less harmful than the ones induced during processing, cooking which are usually called bad sugars or added sugars.
Don't like reading? Watch highlights of the video instead?
OR Continue reading below
Are all sugars bad?
Before sucrose (sugar) enters our bloodstream from the digestive tract, it is broken down into two simple sugars, glucose and fructose and as some of us know, glucose is already present in every living cell and if we don’t get it, our body produces it naturally to maintain the balance.
On the other hand, fructose is what our body doesn’t produces it in significant quantity as there is no such physiological requirement for it. Also, fructose in larger quantities can be easily metabolized by the liver hence, it is okay if we consume in moderate quantities.
But, if it goes over the table, then this fructose will turn into glycogen and will be stored in the liver until needed.
So, until now we know that we do have good sugars and bad sugars!
Now, you can imagine if your liver is overloaded with this glycogen daily over the limit, it will turn into fats which is the major effect from sugar consumption and leading towards obesity.
Why so much focus on sugar and to control its intake?
Since sugar gives energy to our body, it needs be consumed in moderate quantities as, anything over a threshold has its adversities at any point of time.
So, if you consume more of bad ones to which people usually refer to as western diet, has multiple adverse effects. The most common effect as mentioned previously is deposition of fats which is very very hard to burn. Imagine working out for 6 hours in a week and you only manage to burn 100g fats. Scary, isn’t it?
Okay I understand it now. But I don’t think it’s that fatal, is it?
Over the past few years, obesity in America itself has taken away more lives than anything else. The ingestion of too much added sugars does significantly increases the risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases as we don’t know the amount of added sugars in the food that we consume.
With people consuming beverages like sodas, energy drinks and items like cakes, burgers and cheese pizza’s lead to digestive imbalances and problems to our gut health.
Let’s further understand the reasons Why and What too much Sugar leads to.
Added sugars can be found in even the most unexpected products, be it from your marinara sauce to peanut butter.
Many people rely on fast, processed foods for meals and snacks. Since we don’t keep a track on the food that we consume these products often contain added sugar, which makes up a larger proportion of our daily calorie intake leading to higher sugar levels.
In the US, added sugars account for up to 17% of the total calorie intake of adults and up to 14% for children and all these come from the coffee you must’ve had this morning or the left over pizza from the other night.
Dietary and nutrition guidelines suggest limiting calories from added sugar to less than 10% per day but a usual person generally tends to overpass this threshold.
Experts believe that sugar consumption is a major cause of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.
It not only affects your body internally, but externally and mentally as well. Let’s see how it does so..
1. Can Lead to Weight Gain
Rates of obesity is rising worldwide and added sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, is thought to be one of the main culprits. And this has been more of a concern ever since many people worldwide cease to exist with such simple to consume yet complexing for our body.
Sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas, juices and sweet teas are loaded with fructose, a type of simple sugar which we know how affects our liver.
Consuming fructose increases your hunger and desire for food more than glucose, the main type of sugar found in starchy foods and naturally available in fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole foods.
Additionally, excessive fructose consumption may cause resistance to leptin, an important hormone that regulates hunger and alarms your body to stop eating.
In other words, sugary beverages don’t curb your hunger, making it easy to quickly consume a high number of liquid calories. This can lead to weight gain.
Research over the years has consistently shown that people who drink sugary beverages, such as soda and juice, weigh more than people who don’t.
Also, drinking a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to an increased amount of visceral fat, a kind of deep belly fat associated with conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Visceral fat is generally found around vital organs.
As we saw that vital organs get affected, let’s learn problems causing to our heart
·2. Increased Risk of Heart Diseases
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 leading to atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by fatty, artery-clogging deposits.
As per stats, those who consumed 17–21% of calories from added sugar had a 38% greater risk of dying from heart disease, compared to those consuming only 8% of calories from added sugar.
Just one can of soda 16-ounce (473-ml) contains 52 grams of sugar, which amounts to more than 10% of your daily calorie consumption, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
This means that one sugary drink a day can already put you over the recommended daily limit for added sugar. The very reason experts emphasize on counting your calories and sugar intakes as it overall affects our body in long/short run.
3. Increasing Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
The worldwide ubiquity of diabetes has more than doubled over the past three decades.
Though there are many reasons for this, there is a clear link between abusive levels of sugar consumption and diabetes risk.
Obesity, which is often caused by consuming too much sugar, is considered the strongest risk factor for diabetes.
What’s more, extended high-sugar consumption displays hostility to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels.
Insulin resistance causes blood sugar levels to rise and strongly increases the risk of diabetes.
A population observation comprising over 180 countries found that the risk of developing diabetes grew by 1.1% for every 150 calories of sugar, or about one can of soda, consumed per day.
Other studies have also shown that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages, including fruit juice, are more likely to develop diabetes.
·4. Leads to Acne
A diet high in refined carbs, including sugary foods and drinks, has been associated with a higher risk of developing acne.
Foods with a high glycemic index (GI), such as processed sweets, raise your blood sugar more rapidly than foods with a lower glycemic index.
Sugary foods quickly shoot up blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development.
Glycemic Index is a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels. Studies have shown that low-glycemic diets are associated with a reduced acne risk, while high-glycemic diets are linked to a greater risk.
For instance, an experiment on 2,000 teens demonstrated that those who frequently consumed added sugar had a 30% greater risk of developing acne.
Also, many observations on population data shows, rural communities that consume traditional, non-processed foods have almost non-existent rates of acne, compared to more urban, high-income areas where all processed foods and beverages are available.
These findings bind in with the theory that diets high in processed, sugar-laden foods contribute to the development of acne.
·5. May Increase Risk of Cancer
Excessive amounts of sugar consumption may increase your risk of developing certain cancers.
Without a doubt, a diet rich in sugary foods and beverages can lead to obesity, which significantly upheave 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.
A study in over 430,000 people found that added sugar consumption was undoubtedly associated with an increased risk of oesophageal cancer, pleural cancer and cancer of the small intestine.
Another study showed that women who consumed sweet buns and cookies more than three times per week were 1.42 times more likely to develop endometrial cancer than women who consumed these foods less than 0.5 times per week.
Research on relay between added sugar intake and cancer is ongoing, and more studies are needed to fully comprehend this complex relationship.
6. May Increase Your Risk of Depression
While a healthy diet can help improve your mood, a diet high in added sugar and processed foods may increase your chances of cropping up depression.
Consuming a lot of processed foods, including high-sugar products such as cakes and sugar rich drinks, has been confederated with a higher risk of depression.
Researchers have confidence that blood sugar swings, neurotransmitter dysregulation and inflammation may all be reasons for sugar’s detrimental impact on mental health.
An observation following 8,000 people for more than 20 years showed that men who consumed 67 grams or more of sugar per day were 23% more likely to develop depression than men who ate less than 40 grams per day.
Another study in over 70,000 women demonstrated that those with the highest intakes of added sugars had remarkably greater risk of encountering depression, compared to those with the lowest intakes.
·7. Accelerates the Skin Aging Process
Wrinkles are organic sign of aging. They appear sooner or later, regardless of your health.
However, poor food choices can aggravate wrinkles and speed the skin aging process.
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are fusions formed by reactions between sugar and protein in your body. They are presumed to play a key role in skin aging.
A diet high in refined carbs and sugar leads to the production of AGEs, which may cause your skin to age prematurely.
AGEs damage collagen and elastin, which are proteins and important ones that help the skin stretch and keep its youthful appearance.
When collagen and elastin gets affected, the skin loses its firmness and begins to sag leading to various problems like wrinkles and skin aging.
In certain experiment it was understood that, women who consumed more carbs, including added sugars, had a more wrinkled appearance than women on a high-protein, lower-carb diet.
The researchers concluded that a lower intake of carbs was associated with better skin-aging appearance.
·8. Increase Cellular Aging
Telomeres are structures found at the end of chromosomes, which are molecules that hold part or all of your genetic information.
Telomeres act as protective caps, preventing chromosomes from deteriorating or fusing together.
As you grow older, telomeres naturally shorten, which causes cells to age and malfunction leading to more damaged cells in the body.
Although the shortening of telomeres is a normal part of aging, unorganic lifestyle choices can speed up the process.
Consuming high amounts of sugar has been shown to accelerate telomere shortening, which increases cellular aging.
A study in 5,400 adults showed that regularly drinking sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with shorter telomere length and premature cellular aging.
In fact, each daily 20-ounce (591-ml) serving of sugar-sweetened soda equated to 4.6 additional years of aging, independent of other variables..
9. Drains Energy
Foods high in added sugar quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels as we already know by now, leading to increased energy.
However, this rise in energy levels is momentary.
Products that are loaded with sugar but lacking in important elements like protein, fibre or fat lead to a brief energy boost that’s quickly followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar, often referred to as a crash.
Having constant blood sugar swings can lead to major fluctuations in energy levels which affects our body health significantly.
To prevent such energy-draining cycle, choose carb sources that are low in added sugar and rich in fibre. Pairing carbs with protein or fat is another great way to keep your blood sugar and energy levels balanced.
For example, eating an apple along with a small handful of almonds is an excellent snack for prolonged, consistent energy levels.
10. Can Lead to Fatty Liver
A high consumption of fructose has been consistently associated with an increased risk of fatty liver and/or deposition of higher levels of glycogen in the liver.
Unlike glucose and other types of sugar, which are taken up by many cells throughout the body, fructose is almost exclusively broken down by the liver.
In the liver, fructose is converted into energy or stored as glycogen. However, the liver can only store so much glycogen before excess amounts are turned into fat.
Large amounts of added sugar in the form of fructose overload your liver, leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition characterized by excessive fat buildup in the liver.
A study in over 6,000 adults showed that people who drank sugar-sweetened beverages daily had a 56% higher risk of developing NAFLD, compared to people who did not.
·11. Other Health Risks
Apart from the risks or effects listed above, sugar can harm your body in numerous other ways.
Research shows that too much added sugar can:
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.
Negatively impact dental health: Eating too much sugar can cause cavities. As kids, we were always being instructed to consume those glazing toffee, lollipops, and various other such sugary items to be consumed in limited quantities. Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar and release acid byproducts, which cause tooth demineralization.
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.
Shoot cognitive decline: High-sugar diets can lead to impaired memory and have been linked to an increased risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s.
Research on the impact of added sugar on health is ongoing, and new discoveries are constantly being made.
How to Reduce Your Sugar Consumption
Excessive added sugar has many negative health effects.
Although consuming small amounts now and then is perfectly healthy, you should try to cut back on sugar whenever possible.
Fortunately, simply focusing on eating whole, unprocessed foods automatically decreases the amount of sugar in your diet.
Here are some tips on how to reduce your intake on added sugars:
Swap sodas, energy drinks, juices and sweetened teas for water or unsweetened seltzer.
Exercise regularly for at-least 30 minutes to prevent gaining more weight.
Drink your coffee black or use Stevia for a zero-calorie plant based, natural sweetener.
Sweeten plain yogurt with fresh or frozen berries instead of buying flavoured yogurt.
Eat whole fruits or home made sugar-free smoothies instead of sugar-sweetened fruit smoothies.
Replace candy and/or toffies with a homemade trail mix of fruit, nuts and a few dark chocolate chips..
Choose marinades, nut butters, ketchup and marinara sauce with zero added sugars.
Look for cereals, granolas and granola bars with under 4 grams of sugar per serving.
Protein bars which are sugar-free is also a very good option for better filling and no sugar content, guilt free.
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 butters 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.
In addition, keeping a food diary is an excellent way of becoming more aware of the main sources of sugar in your diet.
The best way to limit your added sugar intake is to prepare your own healthy meals at home and avoid buying foods and drinks that are high in added sugar.
Eating too much added sugar can have many negative health effects.
An excess of sweetened foods and beverages can lead to weight gain, blood sugar problems and an increased risk of heart disease, among other dangerous conditions like impaired memory, depression, dementia etc.
To avoid such disturbing yet fatal effects, added sugar should be kept to a minimum whenever possible, which is easy when you follow a healthy diet based on whole foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and so on which contain simple sugars and will be light on your digestive system, liver and overall body.
If you need to cut added sugar from your diet, try some of the small changes listed above.
Before you know it, your sugar habit will be a thing of the past. Allow yourself towards better diets and workout more often for healthier and longer life.