Sugar, oh so sweet and delicious. That frosted cookie, that bowl of ice cream with hot fudge and sprinkles, and that ever so appealing gooey caramel. Once it hits your taste buds, you’re hooked. Sugar stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain, it sees sugar as a reward. Just like with any good thing, you want more and more. It can be a difficult and vicious cycle to break.
Now I’m not going to “sugar” coat this. Sugar is making us sick! Not the stomach ache after eating too much sugar kind of sick, the type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity sick. Here are 7 things sugar does to the body, besides make you feel good in the moment!
Weight gain. It’s no doubt sugar causes weight gain, high amounts of sugar are concentrated in things such as beverages. After drinking a large soda that is full of nothing but sugar and excessive calories, you often don’t feel “full” from it, and drinking multiple sodas is easy to do. This is where the calories rack up quickly and lead to weight gain! Eating sweet, sugary food such as a delicious donut tastes so good it makes you want more. With lack of self-control, one donut can lead to another. It’s important to pay attention to labels and try to avoid items that are high in sugar.
Diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes has skyrocketed over the last few years. Consuming high amounts of sugar, especially prolonged use is leading to insulin resistance. When you eat, your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps move the glucose from the bloodstream into your cells. When there’s too much glucose in the blood stream, especially for a prolonged period of time (eating high sugar diet) the pancreas can’t keep up and this leads to type 2 diabetes. Eating sweet treats in moderation is okay, however you should try and be consistent with eating a well-balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low sugar.
Acne. Studies have shown there is a potential link between acne and diet, specifically diets high in sugar. With sugary foods creating quick spikes in blood sugar, it’s been linked to creating an increase in androgen secretion, as well as oil production. These together lead to acne development. Dermatologists often have patients keep a food log and if they recognize potentially problematic foods, they will advise them to eliminate them.
Heart disease. The number one cause of death worldwide is heart disease. The risk factors for heart disease include obesity, inflammation, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Consuming high sugar diets and especially sugary beverages leads to weight gain, fatty deposits in arteries, and increased blood pressure. A study of 30,000 participants who consumed 17-21% of calories from sugar had a 38% increased risk of dying from heart disease.
Depression. People often talk about ‘eating their feelings,’ meaning they had a bad day and they use some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies as their coping mechanism. Initially that sugar may make you feel over the top happy, but chronic consumption of sugar may actually put you at a higher risk for developing depression. In a study with 8,000 participants, over 22 years men who took in 67+ grams of sugar a day were 23% more likely to develop depression than those who consumed 40 grams or less.
Accelerate aging. Not only can diets high in sugar make your skin age, but also all the cells in your body! Refined carbs and sugary foods have been shown to produce AGEs (advanced glycation end products), which are found as products of reactions between sugar and protein within the body. They are linked to playing a big role in aging of the skin from damaging collagen and elastin, which helps keep the skin looking young and firm. Besides aging just your outer appearance, consuming high amounts of sugar has been shown to increase the shortening of telomeres. Telomeres are structures on the ends of chromones, as you age, naturally they shorten and cause cells to age and even malfunction. Sugar just accelerates the process!
Gut Health. Lastly, but very importantly, gut health is damaged with diets high in sugar! The gut is full of good bacteria as well as bad, probiotic containing foods or supplements fill our gut wih the helpful bacteria. However, eating an unhealthy diet of highly processed foods and sugar, promotes growth of bad bacteria. With the bad bacteria taking over, this disrupts the good bacteria and disturbs the whole gut flora. A study was done comparing a diet with 165g of refined sugar with a diet of 60 g of refined sugar. The outcomes showed that sugar does indeed have a negative affect on the gut.
So, what are your thoughts on sugar now? It may be an irresistible taste for a second, but are the harmful effects it brings along with it worth it? Consider analyzing how many grams of sugar you consume daily; see what changes you can make to benefit your health! Often times people struggle with where to begin when it comes to cleaning up their diet. If you are a pop drinker, set a goal and aim to decrease your consumption to only 1 or 2 a week. Eventually aim to get it down to 1-2 a month! I promise, in the long run, your body will thank you!