Everybody likes to eat sugary foods, but very few think about how much sugar they are consuming.
Along with naturally occurring sugars in foods like fruit and milk, sugar is added to many other food products. It’s in soda, candy, frozen yogurt, cakes, cookies, milk products such as ice cream, and so on.
As there seems to be no end to the amount of sugar in every product, people end up eating more sugar than what is recommended for a healthy diet.
Sugary foods and drinks tend to contain empty calories and usually in excess. Refined sugar has no vitamins, no minerals, no fiber, no protein and no other essential nutrients that are important for your health.
Every organ in your body is affected by sugar, from your brain to your endocrine, digestive, cardiovascular and immune systems. Excess sugar damages your health from head to toe.
Here are the top 10 reasons to limit your sugar intake.
1. Leads to Weight Gain
With so many sugary treats and beverages, people (especially children) are at a higher risk for obesity.
A 2001 study published in The Lancet reports that high intake of sugar-sweetened drinks is associated with obesity in children.
A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Obesity also confirmed the possible role of sugar-sweetened beverages in increasing the risk of obesity.
The empty calories in sugar inhibit your cells from burning fat as well as drives your insulin levels up and messes with your metabolism. All these factors are responsible for weight gain.
A sugary diet causes your body to produce lipoprotein lipase, a type of enzyme that encourages your body to store food in fat cells.
Sugar is also capable of suppressing satiety and increasing ghrelin, the hunger hormone. This means you end up eating more, mostly carbohydrate-rich foods that lead to fat accumulation in the belly. Belly fat in turn increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes.
2. Raises Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes
Excess sugar is a known cause of insulin resistance and elevated insulin in the blood, which are key contributing factors in Type 2 diabetes that now afflicts about 300 million people worldwide. When you eat more sugar, it leads to a buildup of fatty deposits around the liver. Overtime, it affects the functioning of the pancreas, which in turn leads to insulin resistance.
When the body becomes resistant to insulin, the beta cells in the pancreas eventually become damaged and lose the ability to produce sufficient insulin.
Again, a 2010 study published in Diabetes Care confirms that intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to development of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes.
Another study published in 2013 in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, concluded that sugar intake is a prominent determinant of diabetes prevalence rates worldwide. This conclusion is based on data from 350,000 people in eight European countries.
A recent 2016 study concluded that a high-fructose diet induced dyslipidemia and hepatic and adipose tissue insulin resistance.
3. Causes Liver Problems
A diet high in sugar can affect your liver health. Sugar is made up of glucose and fructose, which are metabolized in the liver and converted into lipids. So, excess sugar means more work for the liver and overproduction of lipids, which in turn affect liver function.
Also, high sugar intake causes a spike in the insulin level in the body as well as leads to fat accumulation in the liver cells. This in turn causes inflammation and scarring in the liver. In fact, it can increase the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which can cause symptoms like extreme fatigue, mild jaundice and dull abdominal discomfort.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Hepatology reports that regular intake of sugar-sweetened beverages increases the risk of fatty liver disease, particularly in overweight and obese people.
On top of that, high sugar intake is linked to chronic inflammation in the body, another bad factor related to liver health.
4. Harms the Heart
Sugar is not at all good for your heart health. In fact, it is more harmful than fats as sugar damages your heart and arteries, which in turn increases your risk for cardiovascular disease and a heart attack.
The fructose in sugar increases your low-density lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) level as well as constricts your arteries. At the same time, it raises insulin levels, which activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing blood pressure and heart rate.
High blood pressure makes your heart and arteries work harder, which increases the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and other serious coronary conditions.
A 2014 study published in Open Heart reports that people who consume 25 percent or more of their calories from added sugars are at a three times greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
5. Causes Anxiety and Depression
A sugary diet is also linked to increased risk of anxiety, irritability, mood swings and even depression.
In order to function properly, the brain needs a steady supply of chemicals like glucose and insulin. However, when your brain gets an excess supply of these chemicals due to high sugar intake, it leads to restlessness and anxiety.
High sugar intake can even trick your brain into alcohol and drug addiction. Sugar releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the brain, which increase the affinity toward addictive substances like alcohol and different drugs.
A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that high glycemic index diets may be a risk factor for depression in postmenopausal women.
6. Contributes to Poor Oral Health
Sugary foods and beverages are simply bad for your dental and oral health.
There are many bacteria inside the mouth that feed on sugar.
Bacteria use fructose from the sugar to create lactic acid, which wears away tooth enamel and causes oral problems like cavities as well as bad breath.
A 2003 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that sugar and other fermentable carbohydrates cause the bacteria inside the mouth to produce acid and lower the pH level. This in turn leads to tooth demineralization.
Eating a dessert after dinner and not brushing your teeth before going to bed can harm your teeth as well as lead to that awful morning breath.
7. Gives you Sleepless Nights
When it comes to disturbed sleep, you can put the blame on the dessert you ate after dinner. Yes, sugar is also linked to poor sleep.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reports that low fiber and high saturated fat and sugar intake is associated with lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals.
Consumption of sugary foods also suppresses the activity of orexin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate arousal, wakefulness and appetite.
Plus, sugar consumption causes blood sugar spikes, which leads to adrenal exhaustion. This in turn affects sleep quality.
8. Weakens the Immune System
High sugar intake also suppresses the immune system and makes you more vulnerable to the common cold, flu and other infections.
Sugar impacts your white blood cells by competing with vitamin C for space in those cells. The white blood cells need vitamin C to destroy bacteria and viruses. So, the more sugar you consume, the less vitamin C can get into your white blood cells, resulting in weakened immunity.
A weak immunity not only makes you more vulnerable to infections, viruses, flu and colds but also to cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
9. Affects Brain Health
A high sugary diet is also bad for your brain health.
Excess sugar can impair cognitive function. Too much sugar can reduce proteins in the body that are necessary for memory and responsiveness. This can cause trouble remembering things like where you put your keys or what to get from the market.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Physiology reports that a diet high in fructose affects learning and memory by slowing down the brain.
High sugar intake also disrupts insulin signaling by engaging molecules needed for energy metabolism and synaptic plasticity. Damaged synaptic activity means communication among brain cells is not proper.
Moreover, a high intake of sugar is associated with metabolic syndrome in the brain, a cluster of conditions that can lead to decreased cognitive function as well as changes to the brain structure.
Though not proven, sugar is also considered to be addictive as it stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain.
10. Accelerates Skin Aging
Last but not the least, high sugar intake is not good for your skin.
Sugar intake leads to a process known as glycation, which can make you look older than your age. During glycation, sugar attaches to and damages proteins like collagen and elastin, which are important for smooth and flexible skin. In fact, glycation can make your skin more likely to sag and develop wrinkles.
Sugar also causes inflammation in the body, which in turn causes acne, wrinkles, and premature aging.
In addition, sugar intake is linked to high blood sugar levels, which can reduce skin-protecting antioxidants. This makes your skin more susceptible to sun damage, another important factor behind premature skin aging.
Tips to Cut Your Sugar Intake:
- Limit the amount of baked goodies and candies you eat.
- Include heart-healthy foods like fruits, lean proteins, vegetables and whole grains in your diet.
- Opt for plain or lemon water instead of soda.
- Avoid processed and packaged foods that tend to be high in sugar.
- Always read the nutritional information on food packaging when shopping.
- To satisfy your sweet tooth, indulge in the highest-quality sweets or chocolate that you can afford. You can also satisfy your sweet tooth naturally with fruits, honey, maple syrup and molasses.
- Avoid starting your morning with a sugar-loaded breakfast.