For years, while everyone spent their time cutting out fat and going on fat-free diets, we neglected the real culprit. Nutritionists and the rest of the world are slowly waking up to the fact that sugar is a silent killer. Your daily cinnamon bun and sweetened coffee may seem innocent enough but here’s how it can wreak havoc on your system.
How Sugar Damages Your Body
1. Speeds Up Aging
If you thought sugar only affected your insides, you’d be wrong. Sure, sugar makes a great exfoliant in a scrub with some coconut oil but when you ingest it, it’s quite a different story. Sugar causes damage to collagen and elastin in the skin. This can accelerate aging and make your skin prone to dryness and wrinkling. This process just speeds up when you’re exposed to the sun.1 Quite literally, the effects
2. Causes Inflammation
Sugar is shown to promote inflammation which in turn can make you susceptible to several diseases, but most worryingly, cancer. Prolonged insulin production caused by a high sugar diet can increase inflammation and in turn, promote tumor cell growth. 2 As if that wasn’t enough, in your skin, it can cause pimples, acne, and wrinkles. Sugar may also act as feeding and breeding grounds for bacteria to flourish.3
3. Increases Cholesterol
For years people thought that saturated fat was to blame for heart disease but now we know that the real killer is sugar. Studies
4. Causes Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease was usually associated with alcoholism. However, a form of the disease caused by sugary diets is becoming increasingly popular. The main culprit is fructose. When fructose is consumed in excess, the liver is forced to convert it into fat instead of glucose.5
5. Builds Insulin Resistance
Sugary diets set you up for the first steps towards type 2 diabetes. One of these is insulin resistance. This is when insulin is produced in the body over a prolonged period of time such that the body starts becoming desensitized to it. Eventually, this causes your blood sugar to climb.6
6. Deteriorates Mental Health
You may have thought that sugar only affects you physically but it can also mess with your emotions. The unhealthier your diet is, the more likely that it can affect your mental health as well. Studies show that excess sugar can worsen symptoms of schizophrenia. These diets also seem to have a correlation with depression.7
7. Causes Addiction-Like Symptoms
Sugar is extremely addictive thanks to the way it affects our brain. Sugar releases a huge dose of dopamine and activates the pleasure and reward centers of our brain. These cognitive and biological processes are actually similar to the ones we see in those addicted to narcotic drugs like cocaine and heroin.8 This descends into a cycle of binge eating that eventually causes diabetes and heart disease.
8. Leads To Anxiety
Research shows the addictive nature of sugar can actually elicit withdrawal symptoms. If people who regularly binge eat are denied sugar for a period of time, it can actually result in behaviors that mimic anxiety and depression.9 This probably explains why you feel miserable when you don’t get your sugary blended coffee drink in the morning.
9. Lowers IQ
Yup. You read that right. Sugar makes you dumber. Researchers noticed that rats who were fed a high sugar diet showed significantly impaired brain function as a result.10 It affects your brain’s ability to think
You can cut down on your daily sugar intake in lots of ways
- Cut out sugar in any form of your morning tea and coffee. A lot of sugar gets into your system when you have multiple cups of the stuff daily.
- Avoid sugary cereals and cut out the sugar you would normally put into things like pancakes and waffles, or oatmeal. Replace it with fresh fruit or small amounts of dry fruits
- When baking cookies, brownies, or cakes, you can cut down the amount of sugar by about a third or even up to a half. Make up for this by adding flavorings like vanilla, orange or lemon extracts.
- When it comes to beverages stick to plain water unless it’s fresh fruit juice with no added sugar.
- Be aware of sugar’s many names, especially on labels. These include, corn syrup, high fructose syrup, molasses, invert sugar, malt sugar, dextrose, glucose, lactose, maltose, and sucrose.
- Simple carbs also get converted to sugar within the body
An occasional sweet treat is alright but be aware of the amount of sugar going into your body. It’s not a bad idea to get your blood sugar checked when you have your routine check-ups.
|↑1||Danby, F. William. “Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation.” Clinics in dermatology 28, no. 4 (2010): 409-411.|
|↑2||Boyd, D. Barry. “Insulin and cancer.” Integrative cancer therapies 2, no. 4 (2003): 315-329.|
|↑3||Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K. “Stress, food, and inflammation: psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition at the cutting edge.” Psychosomatic Medicine 72, no. 4 (2010): 365.|
|↑4||Faeh, David, Kaori Minehira, Jean-Marc Schwarz, Raj Periasamy, Seongsoo Park, and Luc Tappy. “Effect of fructose overfeeding and fish oil administration on hepatic de novo lipogenesis and insulin sensitivity in healthy men.” Diabetes 54, no. 7 (2005): 1907-1913.|
|↑5||Stanhope, Kimber L., Jean-Marc Schwarz, and Peter J. Havel. “Adverse metabolic effects of dietary fructose: Results from recent epidemiological, clinical, and mechanistic studies.” Current opinion in lipidology 24, no. 3
|↑6||Prediabetes & Insulin Resistance. National Insititute Of Diabetes And Kidney Disease.|
|↑7||Peet, Malcolm. “International
|↑8, ↑9||Avena, Nicole M., Pedro Rada, and Bartley G. Hoebel. “Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 32, no. 1 (2008): 20-39.|
|↑10||Agrawal, Rahul, and Fernando Gomez‐Pinilla. “‘Metabolic syndrome’in the brain: deficiency in omega‐3 fatty acid exacerbates dysfunctions in insulin receptor signalling and cognition.” The Journal of physiology 590, no. 10 (2012): 2485-2499.|