Sugar is present in almost every food that we eat. The problem is, the human body is not designed to consume high levels of sugar, and this can be detrimental to one’s health. Some of the issues may seem minor, but the dangers of sugar may be more far reaching than you realize.
Types of Sugar
There are various types of sugar. Simple sugars include fructose (fruit sugar), galactose (milk sugar), and glucose (blood sugar), these types of sugars are called monosaccharides.
The type of sugar that usually gets added to foods, also know as table sugar, is refined from sucrose. Sucrose is a disaccharide consisting of fructose and glucose. Dextrose is also often used in baking products and processed foods, but it is a simple sugar that is chemically identical to glucose.
Dangers of Sugar: Negative Effects of Sugar in the Body
Obesity Due to Sugar Consumption
Especially in first world countries, many people rely on processed foods for snacks and meals instead of eating fresh foods. Most of these processed foods will contain sugar in some form, which add up and generally exceed the recommended amounts that should be consumed daily. For people in the USA, almost 17% of the calorie intake per day comes from sugar.
A lot of the sugar may come from consuming juices, sodas and teas containing high levels of fructose (a type of sugar). Fructose may not be as satiating as other carbohydrates, and may lead people to eat higher levels of carbohydrates and starchy foods to produce a feeling of fullness. Fructose may also influence the reaction to leptin in your body, which is the hormone that lets your body know when to stop eating, causing your hunger not to be regulated as it should be. So sugar essentially makes you hungrier and reduces your body’s way of making you stop. This leads to obesity and increased deep belly fat, which is linked to heart disease and diabetes.
Heart Disease as a Risk Factor from Sugar Consumption
Studies have shown that diets high in sugar lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Heart disease is one of the major causes of death worldwide. Eating sugar can lead to high blood sugar, high triglycerides, inflammation, obesity and problems with blood pressure. High sugar intake can also lead to atherosclerosis, where the arteries become clogged by fatty deposits. All of these are risk factors for heart disease.
Sugar Consumption Has Been Linked to Acne
Processed foods, drinks and sweets can raise your blood sugar and insulin levels. This leads to an increase in oil production and androgen secretion, as well as inflammation, which can lead to acne. Studies show that high glycemic diets cause a greater risk for acne than low glycemic diets.
Sugar Consumption Increases Risk of Diabetes
There has been a clear indication that consuming excess sugar leads to a higher risk of diabetes. Sugar causes insulin resistance, which results in higher blood sugar levels, leading to increased risk of contracting diabetes.
Sugar May Increase Your Cancer Risk
Studies have shown that cancer cells use fructose to assist in growing and spreading. These sugars literally feed cancer and help it spread quicker. Higher body fat as well as insulin resistance have also been linked to increased cancer risk. Sugar may also increase inflammation in your body, which is also associated with an increased risk of developing cancers.
Sugar May Make You Depressed
A healthy diet is likely to result in more balanced moods, whereas a diet high in sugar may bring on depression. The highs and lows associated with sugar in the blood, increased inflammation in the body and neurotransmitter dysregulation due to excessive sugar intake can all have a detrimental impact on your mental health.
Sugar May Make You Look Older
Advanced glycation end products have shown to cause skin to age prematurely. These compounds are formed by reactions between proteins and sugars in the human body. These end products damage elastin and collagen, which help reduce wrinkles and stretch marks, making the skin sag and look less firm.
Sugar May Make You Tired
Foods high in sugar cause your insulin and blood sugar levels to spike. This means you end up with a short term energy boost. This is followed by a quick drop, which can drain your energy levels and leave you feeling fatigued. High fiber, low sugar foods can reduce this type of reaction.
Sugar Can Cause a Fatty Liver
Fructose gets broken down by the liver and is stored as glycogen or converted into energy. When the glycogen levels become too high, the excess is turned in to fat. This can eventually lead to fatty liver disease, which has risks similar to that of livers damaged by excess alcohol intake.
Sugar and Other Health Risks
Besides those listed above, other dangers of sugar include poor dental health, increased risk of gout, increased risk of kidney disease, possible impaired memory which could lead to an earlier onset of dementia, and high uric acid levels.
How to Avoid Consuming Too Much Sugar
Examine the foods you eat for added sugars and try and cut back on your sugar intake as far as possible. Here are some tips:
- Eat a healthy balanced diet, consisting of whole, unprocessed foods, especially those full of fiber, which will automatically reduce the amount of sugar you eat.
- Try and drink water instead of drinks full of sugar.
- Add natural fruit to unsweetened yogurt as a natural sweetener, as opposed to eating sweetened yogurts.
- Make your own smoothies from natural products.
- Replace processed snacks with foods such as nuts and mixed fruits.
- Replace salad dressings with vinegar and olive oil.
- Try natural nut butter instead of sweetened spreads.
There are many ways of reducing the amount of sugar you consume. The health benefits of doing so are tremendous. By simply eating and drinking less sugar daily, you can avoid the dangers of sugar, prevent diseases, and lead a healthier life.