A study, published in the Jama Internal Medicine journal, found that a sugar-rich diet can lead to the development of heart disease, which claims the lives of more than 17 million people per year, even in individuals who are not overweight.
Sugar contributes to more than 10% of the average American’s daily caloric intake, with 1 in 10 people consuming more than 25% of their calories from added sugar alone!
Added-sugar beverages, such as sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks are the single largest contributor to the excessive sugar intake in the modern diet, however, cookies, cakes, fruit juices, cereals, ice-cream, and candy also rapidly add up the sugar tally.
What damage does sugar cause to the body?
1. Cavities and Tooth Decay
By creating a highly acidic environment in which plaque and oral bacteria can thrive, regular sugar consumption can lead to gingivitis, gum disease, and tooth decay. These bacteria feed on acidity and sugar, which makes them multiply and attack the enamel on your teeth, causing long-term damage.
Experts from the University of Rochester Medical Center recommend reducing sugar intake and eating plenty of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to help maintain good oral hygiene. Chewing sugarless gum and drinking green or herbal tea can also help to cleanse the mouth and stimulate salivation, which re-mineralizes teeth.
2. Can Trigger Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Studies have shown that people who suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a growing problem in the Western world, consume 2-3 times more sugar than the average person.
NAFLD occurs when an excess of fructose causes fat storage, which can lodge in the liver and produce similar damaging effects as alcoholics experience. Because the liver is the only transporter of sugar, it can easily be overloaded and can cause permanent damage.
3. Promotes Type 2 Diabetes
More than 29 million people in the US have diabetes, with more than 95% suffering from Type 2 diabetes, the type directly affected by diet and lifestyle.
Chronically elevated blood sugar levels, which the modern diet encourages, can lead to severe damage to the pancreas, which can become insulin resistant. Each time that you choose a sugary drink over water, tea, or an unsweetened beverage it increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 83%, which can become an extremely difficult disease to manage.
4. Causes Metabolic Dysfunction
Insulin plays an important role in digestion and metabolic function, helping to tell the body to burn glucose for energy instead of storing it as fat.
Multiple studies have demonstrated sugar’s damaging effect in the way insulin, and therefore metabolism functions, which leads to weight gain, obesity, and a fat-storing body.
5. Contributes to Obesity
Being void of any fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrition, sugar is categorized as an empty calorie, which means that it has little or no value to the human body besides providing a quick burst of energy.
These rapidly digesting calories can pull minerals from the body during digestion, which disrupts hormones and triggers a positive feedback loop to crave more, and more of it.
Studies have shown that sugar suppresses ghrelin, “the hunger hormone”, while simultaneously failing to stimulate leptin, “the satiety hormone”, which causes you to eat more, gain weight and walk down the path to the high health risks of obesity.
6. Promotes Cancer Development
Scientists believe that having constantly elevated insulin levels play a vital role in the development and spread of cancer cells because research has shown how they feed on sugar and thrive in acidic environments.
Studies have demonstrated how sugar promotes cancer cell division, which speeds up their growth and spread significantly. It also generates free radicals, which causes DNA-damage, mitochondrial dysfunction, and cell membrane impairment.
7. Highly Addictive
Scientific studies have demonstrated how sugar is more addictive that cocaine or heroin because it directly stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain.
It stimulates dopamine, which is the brain’s reward center, leading to a similar chemical dependence as alcohol or hard drugs. In one particular study rats who were previously subjected to cocaine addiction were who given a choice between cocaine and sugar: they chose sugar! This demonstrated just how dangerously addictive this common substance can be.
8. Leads to Heart Disease
A 15-year study showed that irrespective of age, sex, body mass index, and physical activity levels, the more sugar you eat, the higher your risk of heart disease.
Dr. Teresa Fung, a professor of nutrition at Harvard University, said: “Regardless of their Healthy Eating Index scores, people who ate more sugar still had higher cardiovascular mortality.”
Heart disease is the number one killer in the world, accounting for more than 17 million deaths per year, something that could be reduced or prevented by reducing overall sugar intake. Sugar increases blood pressure, disrupts cholesterol balance, and can cause an increase in triglyceride levels in the blood, which are all contributing factors to heart disease.
9. Increases Uric Acid Levels
The higher the uric acid levels in the body, the higher the risk of kidney disease, arthritis, gout, and heart disease.
It is a by-product of the metabolic breakdown of purines, which sugar is loaded with, which means that your simple sweet tooth could be increasing your uric acid levels significantly and putting at you risk of developing a disease.
Uric acid is now even being used as a pre-marker for fructose toxicity and as a precursor to several types disease.
10. Triggers Inflammation in the Body
Fructose reacts with the proteins in your body, causing superoxide free radicals to form, which triggers inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is associated with the development of more than 60% of all types of disease and can be managed and prevented by reducing your sugar intake to the recommended safe intake of 6 teaspoons per day.
11. Deteriorates Brain Health
Studies have found a powerful connection between excess sugar consumption and the development of Alzheimer’s disease, which is an irreversible disease.
The constant burning of glucose required by too much sugar intake can disrupt the chemicals in your brain, which causes cognitive decline, anxiety, memory loss, and eventually, brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
12. Disturbs Sleeping Patterns
Because sugar increases blood pressure, disrupts the metabolism, creates hormonal imbalances, and offers addictive and instant energy, it also leads to sleeping disorders, which is detrimental to your health.
Whether in the form of brown sugar, white sugar, honey, agave, fruit juice, soda, iced tea, chocolate, or any other sugary choice, having it less than 3-hours before bedtime will not promote a good night’s rest and can lead to mood swings, chronic fatigue, and premature aging.
13. Can Suppress the Immune System
Research has shown that sugar can suppress the cells of the immune system even hours after ingestion, which could cause germs, bacteria, and viruses to readily thrive.
A study conducted in 1973 showed a 40% reduction in white blood cell function up to 5-hours after eating sugar, which showed the devastating and crippling effect that it has on your immune system.
How much is too much?
While no official limit has been established for added sugar intake, The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily intake to 100-150 calories per day, which equates to 6-9 teaspoons.
One can of soda contains 9-10 teaspoons of added sugar, which means that even just having one sugary drink per day will already put most men and women over the daily limit.
Dr. Fung from the American Heart Association says: “If you’re going to have something sweet, have a fruit-based dessert. That way, at least you’re getting something good out of it.”
Isn’t fruit sugary too?
Unlike refined and added sugar, fruit consists of a healthy combination of fiber and natural fruit sugars, which are well digested by the human body. Studies have shown that eating whole fruit does not have the damaging effects that added sugar has on the body, which makes it a great and healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Dr. Fung suggests having fruit at hand for snacking and adding a little bit of fruit juice to seltzer water if you’re struggling to kick your sugar habits.