Effects of sugar on the body
Sugar consumption is beginning to decrease in the US as Americans are opening their eyes to its dangers. Yet despite these shifts, the average American still consumes roughly 58 grams of refined white sugar and 43 grams of high fructose corn syrup per day (over 100 grams total per day!) However, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 30 grams of sugar per day for women.
Sugar is in almost every processed food from granola bars to breaded chicken, to spaghetti sauce. Here you’ll learn why sugar is so detrimental to our health and tips to curb those sugar cravings for good.
8 damaging effects of sugar on the body
Sugar consumption leads to premature aging and wrinkles
Yup, just want every woman wants to hear – wrinkles and aging. Yayness. But, hey, here’s your number one motivation for abstaining from the sweet stuff (or is that just me? #vanity).
Here’s how it works:
When you consume sugar, a bonding takes place between glucose and collagen called glycation. Glycation can result in thickened arteries, stiff joints, pain, weak muscles, and failing organs. After years of consumption, human tissues become rigid, yellow and pigmented.
Sugar weakens the immune system
High sugar consumption suppresses the immune system (for at least three days afterward!) by decreasing the immune cells ability to envelop and destroy invaders; in other words, they become “paralyzed.” Sugar also increases a protein that inhibits macrophage activity and raises blood sugar. Elevated levels of blood sugar have been linked to bacterial invasion and infectious diseases.
The more sugar you consume the more susceptible you are to getting sick!
Sugar can destroy a healthy gut bacteria balance
It’s all about the microbiome.
Certain “bad” bugs in our gut thrive and multiply off a steady stream of simple sugars, thus causing an imbalance between themselves and beneficial bacteria we need in our guts. Our gut is our “second brain”; the microbiome plays a significant role in our overall health and well-being. If this one area is off, it causes a cascade of negative side-effects from leaky gut, to insomnia to weight gain and many, many other problems.
Sugar consumption can lead to cancer
Another scary effect of sugar on the body is that high sugar consumption over long periods of time can lead to the formation of cancer. Cancer cells require a direct and steady supply of glucose to multiply and thrive. In addition, insulin regulates cell growth. When insulin levels are disrupted by over-consumption of sugar, this can lead to abnormal cell growth activity.
Sugar increases the risk of diabetes
Diets with a high glycemic load and low fiber intake, increase the risk of diabetes in women. Impaired glucose tolerance and reduced insulin sensitivity, along with obesity in pregnant women can lead to birth defects such as cleft palate and abnormal limb development.
Sugar consumption leads to weight gain
Not only is sugar a source of empty calories, but it affects the metabolism and endocrine system leading to insulin resistance syndrome. Overconsumption of simple carbs has the same effect, as these quickly break down into simple sugars within the body. When the liver is overloaded by glucose it turns into fat – hence the term “fatty liver syndrome.”
Sugar negatively impacts children’s behavior and learning
Any mother who has allowed her child to overindulge in sugar has first-hand experience of what this means #purechaos
In case you need further proof, a study by Dr. Stephen Schoenthaler showed that children’s learning capabilities (as measured initially before the start of the study) increased by 15.7% when their diets were weaned off sugar (compared to other children whose diets were unchanged). The study also showed that out of 124,000 children who had previously had trouble learning language and mathematics, 75,000 were able to perform well in these areas after dietary changes alone.
Schoenthaler also studied juvenile delinquents who were on a high junk-food diet. When placed on a processed-food free diet, a dramatic 44% decrease in antisocial behavior was observed, as well as improvement in mood and behavior.
In other words, the overly sweet cereals, breakfast bars, bagels and packaged oatmeals for breakfast, plus the sugar-laden granola bar, “fruit” snack or even glorified gluten-free cookie you pack in your children’s lunch each day has the potential to sabotage their brain’s ability to function and learn at optimal levels during their school day.
Sugar also impacts your teenager’s moods. UGH. (I don’t know about you, but I do not enjoy my teenage son’s moodiness. Sure, it comes with the territory, but sugar makes it SO MUCH worse!)
Sugar causes cavities
Ah, yes, those darn “sugar bugs,” as my daughter learned to call them in school.
Both the frequency and the amount of sugar consumed daily play a role in cavity formation. Sugar consumption above 60 grams per person per day increases the rate of cavities.
The impact of sugar’s effects on our teeth is two-fold. Not only will sugar sitting on your teeth lead to cavities, but a high sugar diet compromises the integrity and strength of our teeth on an internal level. According to the book ‘Cure Tooth Decay’ by Ramiel Nagel, sugar and foods that turn to sugar in the body cause the hormones that control tooth mineralization to change for the worse leading to the formation of cavities.
What about artificial sweeteners?
While artificial sweeteners don’t carry the same glycemic load and don’t impact your blood sugar levels the way refined sugar or HFCS does, there is a big concern about their safety when consumed regularly.
Studies show zero-calorie artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, Equal, sucralose, Splenda, and saccharin generate excessive cravings for the sweet taste (which is sometimes 200x sweeter than cane sugar).
Read my post about artificial sweeteners you’ll want to stay away from:
How’s that for some sweet side effects? (see what I did there…)
Ok, obviously sugar is our frenemy – so what do we do about it? What if we have a raging sweet tooth? (or our kids do…)
Here are 5 simple ways you can curb your sweet tooth and decrease your sugar consumption.
5 tips to curb your sweet tooth
Eat more whole foods
The “cleaner” your diet, as in unprocessed (or minimally processed) and unrefined, the less sugar it will contain. When you make it a point to fill your plate with whole, nutritious foods that fill you up, you leave less room in your diet for empty calories.
Bonus: The less you eat refined sugar or HFCS, the less you’ll crave it.
[bctt tweet=”If you can stay away from sugar consumption for at least a week and consume adequate amounts of healthy fats, you’ll lose your cravings for sugar.” username=”@thescrunchymom”]
Seems pretty obvious, but it’s a good place to start. Dessert is a huge source of sugar in our diets. Just making this one change, especially if you’re used to eating a dessert after dinner every night, can dramatically decrease your daily sugar consumption. Instead, try homemade desserts made with healthy sugar alternatives.
Check for hidden sugars
While dessert is an obvious source of our sugar consumption, hidden sugars can sneak up on you and really add up over the course of a day. We don’t always think “sugar” when we eat foods like canned soups, breaded chicken, or spaghetti sauce, but it’s there, lurking. In addition rice, pasta and bread increase our overall sugar intake as they quickly turn to sugar in the body.
Eat more protein and healthy fat
Protein controls hunger leaving you feeling fuller longer and reducing overall food intake. Fat is high in energy, 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram of carbs. Win!
Cut back on sugary drinks
I don’t know about you, but sometimes beverages don’t always register in my brain as adding to my daily calories or sugar intake. It’s easy to forget the coffee in morning, bottled juice at lunch, and the glass of wine at dinner. All these additional sources of sugar can really put us over the top for the day. If we can train ourselves to be more conscious of these liquid calories and sugar, it will go a long way to reducing our overall sugar consumption.
Did these tips help? How do you avoid overeating sugar?
Hi! I’m Liane, mindset coach and holistic nutritionist in training. I have a passion for all things natural, healthy and holistic. My aim is to inspire you on your healthy living journey by sharing simple, everyday holistic habits that can transform your well-being and life.