Added sugars make up at least 10% of the calories the average American eats in a day. But about one in 10 people get a whopping one-quarter or more of their calories from added sugar.
Added sugar harms your health for two reasons. One is its well-known links to weight gain and cavities. The other is that sugar delivers “empty calories” — calories unaccompanied by fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Too much added sugar can crowd healthier foods from a person’s diet.
Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. It can have harmful effects on metabolism and contribute to all sorts of diseases. Here are 10 ways sugar harms your health.
1. Sugar Specifically Promotes Belly Fat
Adolescent obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years and childhood obesity rates have doubled. One factor that seems to inflict obese children is fat accumulation in the trunk area of the body. Why? One cause may be the increase in fructose-laden beverages. A 2010 study in children found that excess fructose (but not glucose) intake actually caused visceral fat cells to mature — setting the stage for a big belly and even bigger future risk for heart disease and diabetes.
2. Sugar Worsens the Symptoms of Anxiety
The Standard American Diet, which is full of sugar and fat, does not necessarily cause anxiety but it can worsen anxiety symptoms and make you unable to deal with stress.
Sugar can also cause difficulty thinking, fatigue, and blurry vision, all of which may be interpreted as signs of a panic attack, thereby increasing worry and fear. A sugar high and subsequent crash can cause shaking and tension, which can make anxiety worse.
Research has established a correlation between sugar intake and anxiety. In a 2008 study, rats that binged on sugar and then fasted displayed anxiety, and in a 2009 study, rats fed sucrose compared to high-antioxidant honey were more likely to suffer anxiety.
While dietary changes alone can’t cure anxiety, they can minimize symptoms, boost energy and improve your ability to deal with stress.
3. Sugar Interferes With Immune Function
Animal studies have shown that sugar suppresses immune response. More research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms, but we do know that bacteria and yeast feed on sugar and that, when these organisms get out of balance in the body, infections and illness are more likely.
4. Sugar Makes You Age Faster
Another effect of sugar is loss of tissue elasticity and function, which causes your skin to look older prematurely. The way sugar affects skin is by altering the collagen in the skin cells themselves, a process difficult to reverse. Sugar has the potential of inducing abnormal metabolic processes in a normal healthy individual and to promote chronic degenerative diseases.
5. Sugar Makes Your Organs Fat
The fructose — a component of high-fructose corn syrup — in added sugars triggers your liver to store fat more efficiently, and in weird places. Over time, a diet high in fructose could lead to globules of fat building up around your liver, a precursor to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, something rarely seen before 1980.
6. Sugar Causes Chronic Diseases
In addition to elevating your blood sugar levels, constantly eating too much sugar can also result in elevated insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone your pancreas produces in response to rising blood sugar levels. The more sugar and refined carbohydrates you eat, the more insulin your pancreas produces. However, chronically high insulin levels are associated with an increased risk of some cancers, heart diseases, polycystic ovarian syndrome, acne and even myopia, according to an article published in 2003 in “Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A.”
Reducing your sugar intake will help you lower your insulin levels and your risk of developing these chronic conditions.
7. Sugar Is Linked To Diabetes
Those who consume higher amounts of sugar score higher on their fasting glucose tests and have reactive hypoglycemia. The reason for these finding is because sugar decreases your insulin sensitivity thereby causing abnormally high insulin levels in the blood. These strongly predispose to diabetes.
8. Sugar Causes Mood Disorders
The roller coaster of high blood sugar followed by a crash may accentuate the symptoms of mood disorders. Heavy sugar consumption has been linked to an increased risk of depression. There are a couple of theories explaining the link. Sugar suppresses the activity of a hormone called BDNF that is low in individuals with depression. Interestingly, countries with high sugar intake also have a high rate of depression.
9. Sugar Causes Chromium Deficiency
People who consume high amounts of sugar and other refined carbohydrates probably don’t get enough of the trace mineral chromium, and one of chromium’s main functions is to help regulate blood sugar. Scientists estimate that 90 percent of Americans don’t get enough chromium.
Chromium is found in a variety of animal foods, seafood and plant foods. Refining starches and other carbohydrates rob these foods of their chromium supplies.
10. Sugar Causes Tooth Decay
With all the other harmful effects of sugar, this is the most basic damage it does. When sugar sits on your teeth, it creates decay more efficiently than any other food substance.