Sweets are delicious. And it’s easy to overindulge in cakes, ice cream, cookies, baked goods, and sweetened beverages because, well, again, they’re delicious and eating them makes most people happy. However, there is a controversial issue regarding sweets. Many people ask, “Do sweets make you fat?” Can a diet high in added sugar cause obesity and chronic health conditions? This article will attempt to answer these questions.
Reasons Why Added Sugar Is Fattening
So do sweets make you fat? The short answer is yes. Here are the reasons why.
1. High in empty calories
Sugars are added to foods and beverages to improve taste. Common types include corn syrup, fructose, cane sugar, and agave. Excess sugar may lead to weight gain because it is high in calories but offers little in terms of nutrition.
Added sugars are called empty calories because they are relatively high in calories but void of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, which the body needs to function optimally.
Foods and beverages that usually contain a lot of added sugars include ice cream, soda, candy, and cookies. They are often loaded with calories as well. While consuming small amounts of added sugar is not likely to cause weight gain, regularly eating foods that are high in added sugars can cause a person to gain excess body fat quickly and more drastically.
2. Impacts blood sugar and hormone levels
Consuming large amounts of added sugar daily can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. Hyperglycemia (prolonged elevated blood sugar) can cause harm to your body, including weight gain.
One way hyperglycemia leads to weight gain is by promoting insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when cells stop responding to insulin properly, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. That condition impairs normal cell function and promotes inflammation.
High blood sugar and insulin resistance are associated with increased body fat, especially in the belly area. In addition, insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels interfere with leptin, a hormone that plays an important role in energy regulation, including calorie intake and fat storage. Leptin reduces hunger and as a result, also reduces food intake.
3. Foods high in added sugar are less filling
Foods and beverages packed with added sugar tend to be low or lacking in protein, a nutrient that promotes feelings of fullness. Protein produces this effect by slowing down digestion, keeping blood sugar stable, and regulating hunger hormones. Additionally, protein reduces levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases calorie intake and drives appetite.
Eating refined carbs high in added sugars is less filling and may lead to weight gain because you tend to eat more throughout the day. High sugar foods are also usually low in fiber, a nutrient that can reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness.
4. Displaces healthy foods
If a majority of your diet consists of foods high in added sugars, you are likely missing out on important nutrients. These include vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats, and fiber which are found in whole, nutritious foods. Your body needs these nutrients to function optimally and stay healthy.
In addition, refined foods and beverages high in added sugar don’t contain antioxidants, which are found in brightly colored vegetables and fruits, nuts, beans, and olive oil. Antioxidants help protect your cells from free radicals.
Oxidative stress (imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals) is linked to heart disease and certain cancers. Diets high in added sugars increase your risk of such diseases, as well as your risk of obesity. Eating foods high in added sugar could negatively impact your overall health because it displaces nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.
5. May cause you to overeat
Eating too much added sugar, especially fructose, can increase levels of ghrelin, a hunger-promoting hormone, while decreasing levels of peptide YY, an appetite-suppressing hormone. Also, fructose may increase appetite by affecting a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is responsible for appetite regulation, calorie burning, carb and fat metabolism.
The body is predisposed to crave sweetness. Studies suggest that sweet tasting foods activate certain parts of the brain responsible for pleasure and reward. Sugar may increase the desire for calorie-rich foods, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.
6. Linked to obesity and chronic diseases
Many studies have linked high consumption of added sugar to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. This effect has been observed in both adults and children. A review of 30 studies in 242,000 adults and children found a link between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity. One study conducted on 6,929 children found that those between the ages of 6 and 10 that consumed more added sugar had significantly more body fat than those who consumed less.
Studies also show that consuming too much added sugar can increase the risk of chronic health conditions. In a study conducted on 85,000 people, the risk of dying from heart disease was twice as high in individuals who get 25% or more of their daily calorie intake from added sugars, when compared to individuals who get less than 10% of their calorie intake from added sugar.
Added sugar is also associated with heart disease in children because of its role in raising body fat, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels – which are all risk factors for heart disease. Meanwhile, sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with the occurrence of type 2 diabetes in adults.
To summarize our “do sweets make you fat” article, unhealthy dietary habits can lead to weight gain and accumulation of excess body fat. The key here is moderation. Sweets, desserts, and sweetened beverages taste great, and it’s okay to enjoy them once in a while. What you should avoid is overindulging to a point that sweets displace other healthier, nutrition-rich foods. Besides putting on excess body fat, eating too many sweets can increase the risk of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
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