In this article, we want you to understand that added sugar can be found in many processed foods consumed for meals and snacks. We also want you to be aware that while dietary guidelines suggest limiting calories from added sugar to less than 10% per day, it still makes up a large proportion of many people’s daily calorie intake. The danger of this is in the fact that experts believe that sugar consumption is a major cause of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.
Why eating too much sugar is bad for your health
1. Increases Weight Gain
Fructose is a simple sugar found loaded in sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas, juices and sweet teas. This sugar-sweetened beverage is thought to be one of the main causes of the rising rate of obesity worldwide. Consuming fructose increases your hunger and desire for excess food by causing leptin resistance. Leptin is an important hormone that regulates hunger and tells your body to stop eating.
When this is the case, it becomes easy to quickly consume a high number of liquid calories, resulting in weight gain. This is consistent with research that shows that people who drink sugary beverages, such as soda and juice, weigh more than people who don’t.
Additionally, drinking a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages is also associated with an increased amount of visceral fat. This is a kind of deep belly fat known to cause diabetes and heart disease.
2. Increases Your Risk of Heart Disease
High-sugar diets can lead to obesity, inflammation and high triglyceride, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels. All these are risk factors for heart disease, known to be the number one cause of death in the world. Also associated with consuming too much sugar, is atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by fatty, artery-clogging deposits.
In the light of this, note that one sugary drink a day can already put you over the recommended daily limit for added sugar and put you in harm’s way of dying from heart disease.
3. Has Been Linked to Acne
Studies have shown that high-glycemic diets are linked to a greater risk of developing acne. Such foods e.g. processed sweets, raise your blood sugar more rapidly than foods with a lower glycemic index. When they spike blood sugar and insulin levels, it causes increased androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation. This environment favours acne development.
To prove this, many population studies have shown that rural communities that consume traditional, non-processed foods have almost non-existent rates of acne, compared to more urban areas.
4. High Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
A high-sugar diet may lead to obesity and insulin resistance, both of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Consuming too much sugar leads to obesity which is considered the strongest risk factor for diabetes. So also does longtime high consumption of sugar drives resistance to insulin. The hormone produced by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar levels. Once resisted, there is a rise in blood sugar levels and strongly increases your risk of diabetes.
Do you know that the worldwide prevalence of diabetes has more than doubled over the past 30 years and other studies have also shown that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages, including fruit juice, are more likely to develop diabetes.
5. May Increase Your Risk of Cancer
Eating excessive amounts of sugar may increase your risk of developing certain cancers. Obesity, insulin resistance, and inflammation known to be an aftermath of too much sugar are all risk factors for cancer.
Different studies have shown that added sugar consumption was positively associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, pleural cancer and cancer of the small intestine. More studies are needed to fully understand the complex relationship between added sugar and cancer goes on everyday.
6. May Increase Your Risk of Depression
A diet rich in added sugar and processed foods may increase depression risk in both men and women. It is a known fact good foods can help improve mood. While healthy diets can, diets high in added sugar and processed foods such as cakes and sugary drinks cannot.
In fact, researchers believe that swings in blood sugar, neurotransmitter dysregulation and inflammation may all be reasons for sugar’s detrimental impact on mental health.
7. May Accelerate the Skin Aging Process
Wrinkles are normal signs of aging. You will have them at some point, regardless of your health. But note that, poor food choices can worsen wrinkles and speed the skin aging process. Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are compounds suspected to play a key role in skin aging. AGEs are formed by reactions between sugar and protein in your body.
Sugary foods can increase the production of AGEs, which may cause your skin to age prematurely. AGEs does this by damaging collagen and elastin, which are proteins that help the skin stretch and keep its youthful appearance and firmness. Several studies have caused researchers to conclude that a lower intake of sugary foods is associated with a better skin-aging appearance.
8. Other Health Risks
Based on different researches, too much added sugar can lead to other health risks such as:
- Increase kidney disease risk: Having consistently high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the delicate blood vessels in your kidneys. This can lead to an increased risk of kidney disease.
- Negatively impact dental health: Eating too much sugar can cause cavities. Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar and release acid byproducts, which cause tooth demineralization.
- Increase the risk of developing gout: Gout is an inflammatory condition characterized by pain in the joints. Added sugars raise uric acid levels in the blood, increasing the risk of developing or worsening gout.
- Accelerate cognitive decline: High-sugar diets can lead to impaired memory and have been linked to an increased risk of dementia.
- Can Increase Cellular Aging: Eating too much sugar can accelerate the shortening of telomeres, which increases cellular aging.
- Drain Your Energy: High foods can negatively impact your energy levels by causing a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash.
- Can Lead to Fatty Liver: Eating too much sugar may lead to NAFLD, a condition in which excessive fat builds up in the liver. Research on the impact of added sugar on health is ongoing, and new discoveries are constantly being made.
How to Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Here are some tips on how to reduce your intake of added sugars:
- Swap sodas, energy drinks, juices, and sweetened teas for water or unsweetened seltzer.
- Drink your coffee black or use Stevia for a zero-calorie, natural sweetener.
- Sweeten plain yogurt with fresh or frozen berries instead of buying flavored, sugar-loaded yogurt.
- Consume whole fruits instead of sugar-sweetened fruit smoothies.
- Replace candy with a homemade trail mix of fruit, nuts, and a few dark chocolate chips.
- Use olive oil and vinegar in place of sweet salad dressings like honey mustard.
- Choose marinades, nut butters, ketchup and marinara sauce with zero added sugars.
- Look for cereals, granolas and granola bars with under 4 grams of sugar per serving.
- Swap your morning cereal for a bowl of rolled oats topped with nut butter and fresh berries, or an omelet made with fresh greens.
- Instead of jelly, slice fresh bananas onto your peanut butter sandwich.
- Use natural nut butters in place of sweet spreads like Nutella.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages that are sweetened with soda, juice, honey, sugar or agave.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, focusing on fresh, whole ingredients.
The Bottom Line
The negative health impacts of eating too much added sugar are numerous and include weight gain, blood sugar problems and an increased risk of heart disease, among others. This is why added sugar must be kept to a minimum whenever possible. To achieve this, you should follow a healthy diet based on whole foods.
In addition, keeping a food diary is an excellent way of becoming more aware of the main sources of sugar in your diet. The best way to limit your added sugar intake is to prepare your own healthy meals at home and avoid buying foods and drinks that are high in added sugar.