Sugar and our diets – it’s a classic love affair and a tale as old as time, but the relationship turns sour as soon as you know about the alarming ways that sugar is ruining your health.
You may argue that it’s just a single teaspoon in your coffee or two spoons in your cereal, but you’ll be addicted to sweets and sugary treats in no time. Most of us rely on sweet treats like donuts, chocolates, or sugary gummies when we feel hungry between meals, so we don’t really blame you. We’re here to tell you that sugar actually does massive damage inside your body silently, and it’ll be too late by the time you realize what’s happened.
For most people, sugar is the best way to give themselves an instant energy boost, but it’s a lot more than just that. It harms your body in ways you can’t even bring yourself to think. The worst thing about excessive sugar consumption is that it’s not just any one part of your body that it affects; it wreaks havoc in every part of your body!
You might find it all hard to absorb, but when you see all the alarming ways sugar is ruining your health, you’ll soon see the light. Let’s have a look at the harmful effects of sugar on your health in detail.
1. Sugar Causes Insulin Resistance
When you consume sugar, your blood sugar levels rise, and as a response to that, your body produces insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for carrying the excess sugar in the blood to the liver, where it’s stored as glycogen. This way, your blood sugar levels are lowered and kept within normal ranges.
However, excessive sugar consumption can lead to insulin resistance. When you feed your body with sugary foods, the body keeps producing insulin, and a time comes when the cells of your body become resistant to insulin. Insulin stops producing the desired effects, which can lead to type-2 diabetes, heart diseases, and metabolic syndrome.
2. Sugar Can Harm Your Liver
The sugars that you consume are half glucose and half fructose. Glucose is what raises the blood sugar levels. However, the good thing is that glucose is eventually used by cells for energy production. What stays behind is the fructose, and it is what causes more devastating effects than glucose. Fructose can’t be utilized by your cells. It’s first converted into glucose in the liver and is then taken up by the cells. However, your liver can only convert a certain amount of fructose into glucose. The remaining amount of fructose is converted into triglycerides and uric acid.
When you consume too much sugar, the liver gets overloaded with fructose. It converts as much fructose into glucose as its capacity enables it to metabolize, and the rest is converted to triglycerides and uric acid. With excessive sugar intake, your liver develops fat droplets from fructose’s metabolization into fats, which can lead to fatty liver disease, accompanied by abdominal swelling, chronic fatigue, and jaundice.
3. Sugar Increases Uric Acid
You now know that the excessive fructose component of the sugar you consume is converted into uric acid. Higher levels of uric acid pose a serious risk of kidney and heart disease. Uric acid is primarily excreted through the kidneys, and a uric acid overload can put unnecessary load on the kidneys, which reduces their efficiency. The association of fructose and uric acid is extremely strong, so much that increased levels of uric acid can be used as an indication of fructose toxicity.
4. Sugar Forms Free Radicals
Free radicals are dangerous compounds. They can cause oxidative stress to the cells and lead to inflammation and chronic diseases like cancer. Free radicals are not something you may want to have in your body; however, you’re feeding your body these harmful compounds through your sugar-rich diet.
There are two ways in which excess sugar harms your body; it promotes the formation of free radicals and lowers the levels of antioxidants in the blood. As a result, firstly, the free radicals cause oxidative damage to your healthy cells, and then, there are not enough antioxidants to combat this oxidative damage. Cutting down on your sugar intake is one of the best ways to prevent the buildup of free radicals in your body.
5. Sugars Cause Early Skin Aging
One of the major causes of the skin becoming wrinkled and dull before time is the formation of AGEs (Advanced glycation end-products). These compounds are formed by a process called glycation. Glycation occurs when the sugar in your bloodstream comes in contact with the fats and proteins. AGEs damage the elastin and collagen, which are both essential skin components.
As a result, the skin loses its elasticity and firmness, and signs of early aging become visible. The higher the sugar consumption, the more AGEs will accumulate, and hence, the faster your skin will age.
6. Sugar Increases the Risk of Cancer
The glucose in sugar is the primary source of nutrition for all the cells of the body. The cells use sugar to generate energy that is needed to carry out basic bodily functions. However, sugar feeds the cells in a non-selective manner; that is, it feeds both healthy and cancerous cells in your body. According to research, excessive sugar consumption might be the cause of some types of cancers, majorly, cancer of the colon, breast, pancreas, and liver.
Although it can’t be said for sure how exactly excessive sugar intake can cause cancer, it’s believed that it is due to the impact of sugar on glucose, insulin, triglycerides, and on important metabolic pathways. If not directly, sugar can indirectly cause the cancerous cells to spread rapidly. Cancer cells can use glucose for energy generation and rapid division, just like any healthy cell of your body. So, if you can’t put a stop to your sugary munching, you never know; you might be inviting cancer into your life!
7. Sugar Leads to Obesity
It’s no hidden secret that sugar can lead to weight gain. If you’re an avid sugar consumer, you shouldn’t be surprised if your weight keeps on increasing. Unlike vegetables and fruits, that deliver sugar, vitamins, fiber, and minerals, simple sugars offer nothing but calories. All they do is load your body up with calories, which eventually cause significant weight gain. According to a study, kids who consumed more sugary drinks were at a 55% greater risk of being obese. We can’t stress enough on the fact that obesity is the root cause of a number of diseases, including chronic heart diseases.
Another thing that is worth a mention here is that sugar doesn’t promote the feeling of satiety. It means that no matter how many sweet treats you eat, you won’t feel full or satisfied. And the result is – you keep eating. The two hormones that are responsible for signaling us about hunger and fullness are ghrelin and leptin. A diet that is rich in fructose doesn’t impact the appetite control system in the way it should. A high-sugar diet doesn’t suppress ghrelin, so you keep feeling hungry and doesn’t stimulate leptin, so you don’t feel full. As a result, you end up overeating, and eventually, gaining some unwanted extra pounds.
Your can of Coke may feel heavenly on a hot summer afternoon, but you won’t feel the same way about Coke if you think about the after-effects it’s likely to have on your body!
8. Sugar Can Lead to Heart Diseases
If you’re munching on your favorite candy while you’re reading this, put it down.
Simply put, too much sugar can damage your heart – real bad.
You may already know that excess consumption of saturated fats isn’t good for your health. Saturated fats are rich in triglycerides, which can have devastating effects on your heart and circulatory system. But what does it have to do with sugar? Well, if you can recall from earlier in this article, we discussed how excessive fructose in the sugar is converted into triglycerides in the liver. The accumulation of triglycerides in the liver can cause liver diseases, and an excess of triglycerides in the blood can lead to serious heart diseases.
A study was conducted in 2014 stating that people who had sugars as 25% of their total calorie intake are two times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those whose total calorie intake from sugar is below 10%.
9. Sugar Damages Your Teeth
We’ve grown up hearing that “too much chocolate can cause cavities.” Well, this is actually true!
You’ll be stunned to know that sugar is one of the main reasons for tooth decay! About 92% of the adult population in the United States have suffered from tooth decay. In contrast, people who live in Nigeria have little to no sugar intake, and only 2% of Nigeria has had experience with tooth decay. One of the most efficient ways of protecting your teeth from tooth decay is to cut down as much sugar from your diet as possible – even eliminate it if you can!
10. Sugar Increases the Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s
One of the most alarming ways sugar is ruining your health is the way it damages your brain. Research suggests that eating a diet rich in refined sugars and fats decreases the level of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in the brain. BDNF plays a vital role in memory formation, and the effect on BDNF is one of the primary causes of the development of Alzheimer’s in the early stages.
11. Sugar Weakens the Bones
Sugar affects every part of your body, and the bones are no exception. A high-sugar diet causes disturbances in the bones and provokes an osteoporotic effect. Sugar also promotes the formation of AGEs, (the same AGEs that result in aging of your skin), and this also causes the aging of your bones! People who have diabetes have a greater number of AGEs in their bodies, which is why diabetic individuals are at a greater risk of getting bone fractures.
12. Sugar Can Raise Blood Pressure
By now, you already know how excess sugar is metabolized in your body. You also know where the fructose component of the sugar goes. When you consume a diet rich in fructose, the excess fructose is converted into triglycerides. These are the compounds that put you at a greater risk of developing heart diseases.
What you may not know is that these triglycerides can also lead to high blood pressure. Some studies suggest that the effect of excess fructose on blood pressure is worse than that of salt!
13. Sugar Can Cause Gout
As stated before in this blog post on the alarming ways sugar is ruining your health, the relationship between sugar and uric acid is quite strong. If the content of uric acid in the blood gets very high, it leads to the formation of crystals of uric acid that get accumulated in the joints. Excess uric acid in the blood and in joints can result in gout flare.
As much as we adore sweets, you can’t close your eyes to the harmful effects of sugar on your health. Sugar can literally ruin your health. Not just in any one aspect, but your health as a whole. This is clearly proven by this list of the 13 alarming ways sugar is ruining your health! One way to ensure that you stay healthy and fit is to cut down your sugar intake. Not being able to gulp down a can of soft drink or munch on your favorite gummies may not be easy, but it’s surely worth the effort.