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How Does Sugar Affect Your Body and Health?

sugar cubesWe all consume sugar. Sugar itself naturally occurs in all foods that contain carbohydrates (i.e., fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy). These whole, natural foods are full of necessary vitamins and minerals. The issue is when you consumer added sugar. Added sugar is sugar that manufacturers add to food and drink products to boost their flavor or extend their shelf life. The top sources of added sugars in the American diet are soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cookies, cakes, candy, and most processed foods. But be careful. You can also find added sugars in things like soup, bread, and cured meats. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. In this blog, we’ll be discussing the effects sugar has on your body and health, so you can make informed decisions on what you should or shouldn’t include in your diet. 

Am I Overeating on Added Sugar?

In a perfect world, you would be eating no added sugar. Unfortunately, life these days can make it challenging to keep your diet that clean. However, you should do your best to limit the amount of added sugar you do consume. The average person typically consumes too much added sugar. According to the National Cancer Institute, adult men consume an average of 24 teaspoons, that’s about 348 calories of added sugar per day. This is concerning when the American Heart Association recommends that men not consume more than nine teaspoons or 150 calories of sugar per day.

In total, there are about 56 different names for sugar, so do your research and keep your eyes peeled. Added sugars can be hard to look out for because manufacturers list them under several different names on food labels, such as:
  • Corn syrup
  • Agave nectar
  • Palm sugar
  • Can juice
  • Sucrose
  • Fructose

Effects on Your Body

Have you ever wondered what makes sugary foods so addicting? Well, let’s take a look at the brain. When you consume sugar, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that controls mood, behavior, learning, and memory. The more sugar you consume, the more dopamine that is released, which is why you subconsciously crave more sugary foods as opposed to whole foods with natural sugars. This might seem like a trivial thing. I mean, we’ve all heard of sugar addictions. However, scientists associate disrupted dopamine levels with drug addiction and Parkinson’s disease. Too much sugar can even alter dopamine receptors if consumed in large amounts for long periods.

While your brain does need sugar to function on some level, too much sugar can cause problems. Studies demonstrate that excess glucose consumption can lead to memory and cognitive deficiencies.

Do you ever remember hearing the saying, “candy would rot your teeth?” Well, there’s some truth to that. Bacteria that cause cavities love to eat sugar lingering in your mouth after you eat something sweet. An excellent way to prevent these cavity conducive conditions is to limit the amount of sugar you consume and to rinse your mouth out after consuming something particularly sweet. Unfortunately, while cavities are extremely easy to avoid, about 96% of adults have had cavities—a telling sign of what our diets can do to our teeth.

The occasional candy can give you a burst of energy, or a sugar high, by raising your blood sugar levels fast. But what goes up must come down. When your levels drop as your cells quickly absorb the sugar, you may feel jittery and anxious. Too much sugar too often has even been linked to a greater risk of depression.

One study following 8,000 people for 22 years showed that men who consumed 67g or more of added sugar per day were 23% more likely to develop depression than the men who consumed 40g or less of added sugar a day.

Overall, sugar is a rapid energy source, and why your body needs sugar to run, added sugar is just not the answer. You want to consume something with nutritious value. Processed foods filled with added sugars will be processed quickly by your body. In 30 minutes, you’ll be hungry again, low on energy, or looking for another energy source while being irritable and uncomfortable.

Research shows that people who drink sugary drinks tend to weigh more and be at a higher risk of type two diabetes than those who don’t. Excess amounts of sugar can inflame fat cells causing them to release chemicals that increase weight. Extra sugar also damages the healthy environment in your gut. A healthy gut helps our metabolism regulate blood glucose and insulin levels and enables our bodies to use lipids and manage cholesterol. When you overeat on sugar, the good bacteria in your gut decreases, and harmful bacteria overgrow. This imbalance between the bacteria is called dysbiosis, which signifies that your metabolism has difficulty processing lipids and cholesterol. Added sugars also make you hungrier in general. They inhibit fat hormones, like leptin, which inhibits hunger. This turns eating added sugar into a vicious cycle of destruction within your body.

Inflammation makes your skin age faster. Excess sugar attaches to proteins in your bloodstream and creates harmful molecules called “AGEs” (advanced glycation end-products). These AGEs age your skin and can damage collagen and elastin in your skin.

According to The American Academy of Dermatology Association, “glycemic control plays a significant role in skin health and acne.” One study even suggests that insulin resistance may influence the development of acne. You see, sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels. This causes increased androgen secretion, oil production, and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development.

High sugar diets can lead to obesity, inflammation and high triglyceride, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels, all of which are heart disease risk factors. Consuming too much sugar, particularly from sugary drinks, has been linked to atherosclerosis, a disease that involves the hardening of arteries. One study of 30,000 people demonstrated that those who consumed 17-21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% greater risk of dying from heart disease than those consuming 8% of their calories from added sugars.

Why You Should Avoid Added Sugars

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and The American Heart Association agree that toddlers and infants under two should not consume any added sugar. If that isn’t enough of a warning for you, I’m not sure what is. Added sugar, particularly in excess amounts, can be highly detrimental to your health in ways many people don’t consider. From causing rotting teeth to clogged arteries, there are many reasons why you should cut out excess sugars in your diet.

We Can Help

Here at The Wellness Connection, we strongly suggest you reevaluate your diet, especially if you consume added sugars. We have clinical nutritionists, experts in their fields, that will tell you all these things and more about the dangers of added sugar. Are you looking to get your life on the right track? Do you want to live a long and healthy life? We’re here to help, contact us to reach out with any questions you may have.

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