5 Effects of Sugar – It’s Hijacking Your Health
Hooked on sugar? You aren’t alone. The majority of Americans cannot get enough of the sweet white powder. In the exact moment of consumption, sugar can taste so good (and for many people it lights up the reward/addiction region of the brain) but are the effects of sugar on your body in long-term? Is it worth that instant gratification?
Before we dive in, let’s be clear on what is meant by added sugar. I’m referring to added sugar as any source of sugar that is not naturally occurring and contributes calories to the diet. The truth is that it doesn’t matter if the sugar is “refined” or “unprocessed”. At the end of the day cane sugar is going to have a very similar impact on your blood sugar levels as maple syrup and other sugars that are sometimes deemed as ‘healthy options’. The same is true for high fructose corn syrup and table sugar—once they are broken down in the body they both are essentially 50% glucose and 50% fructose. That means many of the negative effects of sugar are seen from all sources of added sugar, natural or not.
1. Sugar Can Increase Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease.
For the longest time everyone thought that heart disease was only caused by foods like butter and eggs. It turns out sugar has been playing a pretty significant role without taking any credit. Calories from sugar and refined grains are associated with several risk factors for cardiovascular disease including high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and insulin resistance. This link to heart problems is one of the most serious effects of sugar on your overall health.
2. Sugar Significantly Increases Risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
My boss, Dr. Mark Hyman, often refers to type 2 diabetes as “Diabesity” since diabetes and obesity go hand in hand. Sugar is one of the top culprits of Diabesity. A large 2011 study found that drinking soda regularly was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. They found that consuming an average of one can of soda per day was associated with a 24% increased risk of diabetes compared to those who never drank regular soda. Other studies have reported an even higher risk.
3. Sugar Can Decrease Nutrient Status.
Consuming foods or beverages that are high in sugar can cause a crowd out effect for nutritious foods and nutrients. A 2013 report from the CDC found that eating more added sugar can lead to lower vitamin and mineral levels internally, in addition to an increase in body weight. My tip would be to save your calories for unlimited vegetables and crowd out the sugar!
4. Sugar Increases the Risk of Cognitive Decline.
In functional medicine we often refer to Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia as type 3 diabetes. More and more research is finding that higher levels of blood sugar (caused by too much sugar from foods or drinks) can have a negative impact on memory and may lead to structural changes in certain areas of the brain that are associated with memory. Therefore the effects of sugar aren’t limited just to your body, it can impact your mind too.
5. Sugar Can Cause Metabolic Problems Passed Down from Mother to Future Generations.
A recent study found that the effects of sugar can be passed on to your baby. It showed that eating a lot of bad fats and high sugar diets can lead to metabolic problems that get passed down for multiple generations, even if the offspring has a healthy diet.