How dangerous is sugar to our health. The main danger is in the way we consume it.
Is there much of a difference?
Many healthy foods have sugar in them. That’s rarely the problem. People rarely get into trouble for eating too many apples. The main issue is in concentration.
- An average apple will have around 10–15 grams sugar.
- An average candy bar will have 40–50 grams.
Contrary to popular belief, processed sugar and sugar found in fruits aren’t that different. They are both made out of fructose and glucose. The ratio of those two ingredients is also quite similar. But the processed sugar is much more concentrated, as you can see in the comparison between an apple and a candy bar above.
Compare it to alcohol. Higher concentration of alcohol means you’ll get drunk more easily. Higher concentration of sugar makes it easier to overdo it and suffer the consequences.
How dangerous is sugar to our health. The truth lies in the content.
Fruits, honey, and other, more natural sources of sugar, have better nutritional qualities, vitamins, and lower concentrations of sugar. Processed foods with added sugar have a higher percentage of said sugar and fewer vitamins and other micro nutrients present in natural foods.
Sugar is sweet, delicious, and addictive.
It has great value per gram. That’s why our bodies think they’ve hit a nutritional jackpot when they get that sweet taste. But, as you can see, we usually have access to more sugar than we need, and that causes severe health issues.
Eating too much refined sugar has been linked to increased risks of:
- Heart disease.
- Skin problems (acne, wrinkles).
- Digestive problems (sugar ferments in our gut.)
The rich flavor comes at a price. Better not pay it and avoid sugar overdoses.
10 Ways Sugar Harms Your Health
1. Sugar causes blood glucose to spike and plummet
Unstable blood sugar often leads to mood swings, fatigue, headaches and cravings for more sugar. Cravings set the stage for a cycle of addiction in which every new hit of sugar makes you feel better temporarily but, a few hours later, results in more cravings and hunger. On the flip side, those who avoid sugar often report having little or no cravings for sugary things and feeling emotionally balanced and energized.
2. Sugar increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease
Large-scale studies have shown that the more high-glycemic foods (those that quickly affect blood sugar), including foods containing sugar, a person consumes, the higher his risk for becoming obese and for developing diabetes and heart disease 1. Emerging research is also suggesting connections between high-glycemic diets and many different forms of cancer 2,3,4.
- Also, read What are the best ways to stay healthy?
3. Sugar interferes with immune function
Research on human subjects is scant, but animal studies have shown that sugar suppresses immune response 5. More research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms; however, 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. A high-sugar diet often results in chromium deficiency
It’s sort of a catch-22. If you consume a lot of sugar and other refined carbohydrates, you 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.6
5. Sugar accelerates aging
It even contributes to that telltale sign of aging: sagging skin. Some of the sugar you consume, after hitting your bloodstream, ends up attaching itself to proteins, in a process called glycation. These new molecular structures contribute to the loss of elasticity found in aging body tissues, from your skin to your organs and arteries 7. The more sugar circulating in your blood, the faster this damage takes hold.
6. Sugar causes tooth decay
With all the other life-threatening effects of sugar, we sometimes forget the most basic damage it does. When it sits on your teeth, it creates decay more efficiently than any other food substance8. For a strong visual reminder, next time the Tooth Fairy visits, try the old tooth-in-a-glass-of-Coke experiment—the results will surely convince you that sugar isn’t good for your pearly whites.
7. Sugar can cause gum disease, which can lead to heart disease
Increasing evidence shows that chronic infections, such as those that result from periodontal problems, play a role in the development of coronary artery disease 9. The most popular theory is that the connection is related to widespread effects from the body’s inflammatory response to infection.
8. Sugar affects behavior and cognition in children.
Though it has confirmed by millions of parents, most researchers have not been able to show the effect of sugar on children’s behavior. A possible problem with the research is that most of it compared the effects of a sugar-sweetened drink to one containing an artificial sweetener 10. It may be that kids react to both real sugar and sugar substitutes, therefore showing no differences in behavior.
What about kids’ ability to learn? Between 1979 and 1983, 803 New York City public schools reduced the amount of sucrose (table sugar) and eliminated artificial colors, flavors and two preservatives from school lunches and breakfasts. The diet policy changes were followed by a 15.7 percent increase in a national academic ranking (previously, the greatest improvement ever seen 1.7 percent)11.
9. Sugar increases stress
When we’re under stress, our stress hormone levels rise; these chemicals are the body’s fight-or-flight emergency crew, will send out to prepare the body for an attack or an escape. These chemicals are also called into action when blood sugar is low. For example, after a blood-sugar spike (say, from eating a piece of birthday cake), there’s a compensatory dive, which causes the body to release stress hormones such as adrenaline, epinephrine and cortisol. One of the main things these hormones do is raise blood sugar, providing the body with a quick energy boost. The problem is, these helpful hormones can make us feel anxious, irritable and shaky.
10. Sugar takes the place of important nutrients
According to USDA data, people who consume the most sugar have the lowest intakes of essential nutrients––especially vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, vitamin B-12, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. Ironically, those who consume the most sugar are children and teenagers, the individuals who need these nutrients most12.
Now that you know the negative impacts refined sugar can have on your body and mind, you’ll want to be more careful about the foods you choose. And the first step is getting educate about where sugar lurks—believe it or not, a food needn’t even taste all that sweet for it to be loaded with sugar. When it comes to convenience and packaged foods, let the ingredients label be your guide, and be aware that just because something boasts that it is low in carbs or a “diet” food, doesn’t mean it’s free of sugar. Atkins products never contain added sugar.