Sugar (Added or Refined Sugar)
Added or refined sugar (which we will refer to as just "sugar") is added to so many foods and drinks that it's difficult to avoid. However, if you want to improve the long-term quality of your life, cutting down on added sugar will do more than just help you lose weight—it can also protect your heart, prevent cancer, and boost your mood!
Here are some of the worst things that happen when you eat too much sugar:
Sugar turns to body fat.
Sugar is one of the major culprits behind obesity. Since sugar has no protein or fat, it's processed in your liver, which turns it into fat for storage in your body. This can lead to weight gain if you're eating too much sugar (especially if those extra pounds aren't from muscle). Sugar also causes inflammation that makes you tired and fatigued, so when you're tired, you'll crave more sugar!
Sugar in your diet can set you up for type 2 diabetes.
Sugar can send your blood sugar into a rollercoaster. When you eat sugar, it causes your pancreas to release insulin. Your body uses this hormone to move glucose (sugar) into cells, where it's either used for energy or stored as fat.
But if you eat too much sugar and don't burn the calories off through activity, your body becomes resistant to insulin—and then your pancreas has to pump out more and more of it just so that you can keep up with the extra work load. This is called "insulin resistance" and is one of the key factors in type 2 diabetes.
Sugar puts you at risk for depression, anxiety, and mood swings.
In a study of over seventy-five thousand people, researchers found that those who consumed the most added sugars were more likely to have depression symptoms over time. In addition to its link with depression, added sugar has also been associated with increased levels of cortisol (a hormone involved in stress) and decreased serotonin production (a neurotransmitter important for regulating mood). The links between added sugars and anxiety are less clear than the previous two conditions but it’s speculated that they may be related because high insulin spikes can lead to low blood glucose levels which then causes hunger pangs and cravings for sugary foods like sweets or pastries.
Sugary foods can lead to memory loss and dementia.
If you want to avoid memory loss and dementia, then you need to cut out added sugar from your diet. Sugar can lead to memory loss, depression, anxiety and other mood disorders like bipolar disorder.
There are two specific types of sugar that have been linked with the onset of dementia: fructose and glucose. Fructose is found in fruit but it's the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that causes problems because it’s been linked with Alzheimer’s disease when consumed by humans over long periods of time.
Sugar is a source of chronic inflammation.
Excess glucose (sugar) in the blood triggers an inflammatory response from your immune system, which makes you more susceptible to disease and aging.
Sugar contributes to heart disease.
- Sugar raises insulin levels, which can cause damage to the lining of blood vessels and lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
- Sugar also increases inflammation throughout your body, which increases your risk of heart disease.
- In addition, studies show that high-sugar diets can increase your blood pressure and cholesterol levels by causing weight gain.
Sugar is linked to cancer.
A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society also points out that added sugars can have a link to some forms of cancer, including those found in the colon and rectum, mouth, throat, lung and breast. In addition to the risk of getting cancer from drinking sugary drinks like sodas or fruit juices (which contain more concentrated amounts), it's important to know that many processed foods are loaded with hidden sugars (e.g. syrup, honey, agave nectar).
It takes some effort, but it is worth it to cut added sugar from your diet.
To avoid consuming too much added sugar, avoid purchasing processed foods unless they specifically say “no added sugars” on their nutrition labels. You should also check food labels for any ingredient ending with “ose” (such as dextrose, fructose or sucrose). If an ingredient ends with “ose” it means that it contains one or more sugars.
Sugar is addicting.
It’s not just the food industry that loves sugar! Sugar is addicting. And it causes a dopamine release. Dopamine is the feel-good chemical in our brains, and it’s released after we eat sugar or something else that stimulates our pleasure centers (like drugs).
When you eat too much of these foods, your body becomes less sensitive to the effects of dopamine and you need more to get the same response as before. This can lead to binge eating and overeating as well as cravings for sweets or other unhealthy foods when you don’t have them available.
The good news? You can retrain your brain by removing added sugars from your diet for two weeks and then slowly introducing them back into it one at a time so that you learn what triggers cravings in yourself.
Sugar causes tooth decay.
The main reason why sugar is bad for your teeth is that it's a source of acid. Sugar doesn't just sit around in the mouth, it's converted into acids by bacteria—bacteria that live in our mouths and also eat food (like sugar). These acids damage your tooth enamel, which exposes the underlying dentin. The exposed dentin is thinner and more porous than normal tooth structure, making it more vulnerable to decay-causing bacteria. In other words: sugar makes the problem worse by providing more food for bacteria!
The longer you keep eating refined sugar and high-carbohydrate foods like crackers or pasta, the more likely you'll experience cavities.
We know it's not a magic bullet for all health problems, but lowering sugar intake can help lower risk factors for many diseases, improve heart health and memory function and potentially even prevent some types of cancer. There are plenty of reasons not to eat added sugar, but this list should give you some motivation!