In the recent past, doctors were all about how the fat content of food drives the obesity epidemic and contributes to rising levels of virtually every disease.
And that may be true, in part, but more attention is now being paid to the effects of sugar. Researchers and medical professionals are realizing that too much sugar is the real culprit behind the declining health of humanity.
It causes chronic inflammation, spikes blood glucose to dangerous levels, and is highly addictive.
All of that adds up to a lot of preventable diseases. Stick with us to find out the shocking ways that sugar affects the systems of your body.
11. Insulin Resistance
Too much sugar leads to insulin resistance, which then puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. When we eat sugar, blood glucose levels rise and our bodies produce insulin to move the available glucose from the blood into the cells that use it for energy.
When we consume too much sugar on a regular basis (and it is very easy to do), the body is forced to make more and more insulin to keep up.
Eventually, our cells become resistant to it, making it impossible for insulin to do the job it needs to do. At that point, your body goes to some extreme measures to try and flush excess glucose from your system.
10. Heart Disease
Triglycerides are a type of fat that can cause heart disease. Common sources of triglycerides are foods high in saturated fats like vegetable oils – so items like chips, French fries, and other junk food are major culprits.
However, triglycerides are also formed when we eat too many calories in the form of sugar. As the pancreas releases more insulin in response to spiking blood glucose, the extra insulin signals to the liver to turn glucose into triglycerides.
To reduce your risk of dying from heart disease, try not to exceed 10% of daily calories from added sugar.
9. Liver Problems
Sugar is really hard on your liver as well. It is actually comprised of an approximately 50/50 split of glucose and fructose.
Glucose is used by cells to produce energy, but fructose is not immediately useful to cells. It must be metabolized by the liver first, and the liver can only handle so much fructose at once. Excess is converted in uric acid and triglycerides.
Just one can of soda is enough to overwhelm the liver and force it to create fat, and when this process is chronic, small droplets of fat will form in the liver. The condition is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and it causes chronic fatigue, abdominal swelling, and jaundice.
8. Weight Gain
It’s common knowledge that too much sugar packs on the pounds. The reason is that simple sugars are “empty calories” – they don’t add anything important to the diet except for a short blast of energy. There is no fiber, vitamins, or minerals in it, just calories.
So you can eat tons of sugar but still not feel satiated, because the body isn’t getting what it needs. Predictably, this leads to overeating.
Sugary beverages are even worse than over sweetened packaged foods, because the body does not register calories that are drunk the same way as calories that are eaten. Overeating fructose forces the liver to produce even more fat to keep up.
7. Cancer Causing
Recent studies have linked excess sugar consumption to cancers of the pancreas, breast, colon, and liver.
It is not clear exactly what causes this, but we know that sugar is the favorite fuel of cancer cells. The so-called Warburg effect, discovered in 1931 by Otto Warburg, shows that glucose accelerates the division of cancer cells.
The interplay of triglycerides, glucose, and insulin may also affect certain metabolic pathways that allow cancer cells to spread throughout the body. Reducing sugar consumption helps to limit the amount of fuel that can be used by cancer to spread.
6. Extremely Addictive
Eating sugar feels pretty good, at least at first. Addiction to sugar happens through the same mechanism as drug addiction, and the habit can be just as difficult to break.
When we consume sugar, we are rewarded with a hit of natural opioids and dopamine in the brain. That makes us happy even as negative effects are happening in the body.
It’s the same neurochemical change that happens in the brain when a person takes an addictive drug. In fact, the same medications that are often used to treat nicotine addiction are now being applied to sugar addiction.
5. Increased Uric Acid
Too much uric acid often leads to heart and kidney disease, and fructose is a major driver of its production.
Whenever we take in fructose, it undergoes a process in the liver that creates uric acid. If you have too much uric acid in your system, the kidneys will struggle to eliminate it. Eventually you will develop crystals and then stones in your kidneys.
Another side effect of high uric acid is gout, in which acid crystals collect in your joints, especially in the fingers and toes. Gout causes significant pain, swelling, stiffness, and redness.
4. Skin & Bone Aging
The process of glycation is when proteins and fats are exposed to sugar found in the bloodstream. This results in advanced glycation end products (AGEs), within turn damage both collagen and elastin.
The skin ages faster because AGEs damage the firmness and elasticity that makes skin look young. The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs, and thus the more skin damage.
AGEs also attack the bones, leading to conditions like osteoporosis.
3. Rampant Free Radicals
You’ve probably heard of free radicals before, but may not know exactly what they are. Free radicals are simply unpaired electrons, but they can wreak havoc in the body through inflammation, cancer, and chronic disease.
Excess sugar in the bloodstream causes free radicals to form. Antioxidants bind with free radicals to neutralize them, but you may not have enough to manage the onslaught.
Reducing sugar and increasing antioxidants in your diet is one of the best ways to protect your body from free radical damage.
2. Rotten Teeth
Sugar in any form rots the teeth, and it’s really the only thing that does.
Consider the difference between the populations of Nigeria, where very little sugar is eaten, and America, where people eat way too much. In Nigeria, only 2% of the population has tooth decay; in America, a staggering 92% of people do.
The acids in our diet can also contribute to enamel loss, but its sugar that creates cavities.
And finally, the most well known risk of eating too much sugar is diabetes.
When blood sugar is chronically high, it leads to insulin resistance and forces the body to get really creative about eliminating all the glucose that is going unprocessed and can’t be used as fuel.
Uncontrolled diabetes negatively affects your eyes, nerves, heart, teeth, and kidneys, poor blood flow may also lead to gangrene and the loss of a foot. Sadly, the expected lifespan for people with Type 2 diabetes is shortened by 10 years, 20 years for those who suffer Type 1.