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11 reasons why too much sugar is bad for you

by Nic Florido

Sugar is the bad guy of the food world. Like all bad guys, he has a sweet side that’s hard to resist. But – and I’m sorry to break this to you – it’s a toxic relationship.

So... I think we need to talk about sugar.

Here are 11 reasons why too much sugar is bad for you


A spoonful of sugar
doesn’t help the medicine go down.

Let’s start by looking at a few not-so-sweet facts.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) says we shouldn’t get more than 5% of our daily calories from added sugar. That’s less than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day.
  • The problem is that an average 600ml bottle of soft drink has 16 teaspoons of sugar in it – nearly 3 times the recommended amount in one hit.
  • We Aussies eat and drink nearly 2.5 times the recommendation – up to 14-16 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Yikes! That’s around 3,285 teaspoons of sugar a year.
  • For all the reasons you’ll read about below, sugar’s now one of the Top 10 public health enemies. Governments all over the world, including here in Australia, are finding ways to rid sugar!

A bit about sugar

 

Educating yourself about sugar can seem like a big task. That’s because there are lots of different types of sugars and they all react differently within our bodies.

Glucose, for example, is absorbed and used up as energy quite quickly. Table sugar (aka sucrose) is half glucose, half fructose and it’s the fructose in those little white granules that does the most damage. This is because the body can’t detect it. It isn’t metabolised and it doesn’t impact on our appetite. In other words, we can eat mountains of it and never get full.

This is where the problem lies. It’s why it’s so easy for us to eat too much - not just too much sugar, but too much of a huge range of foods and drinks containing added sugars. These added (and often hidden) sugars make it hard for us to truly know how much sugar we’re eating each day and whether how much we’re eating is ‘too much’.

 

11 reasons why too much sugar is even bad for you:  

  1. Sugar could be making diabetes more common
  2. Excess sugar consumption can cause fatty liver disease
  3. Sugar = empty calories
  4. It saps your energy
  5. Sugar negatively impacts your brain power
  6. It affects your mental wellbeing
  7. It makes you gain weight
  8. Excess sugar intake has been linked to heart disease
  9. Sugar can ramp up your inflammatory response
  10. It hampers your muscle building
  11. It means more trips to the dentist

Ditching sugar? Try our Nexba Naturally Sugar Free Kefir!

1. Sugar could be making diabetes more common

 

As mentioned above, one of the biggest issues with sugar is not being able to easily understand how much of it we’re consuming. The increased volume of added sugars in our diet has been linked to obesity. This is because we’re not satisfied by what we’re eating (thanks to those hidden sugars) and, therefore, we eat more than we need.

Obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and there is research to suggest a correlation between sugar consumption and diabetes rates. More study is definitely needed, but the results out there already are enough to suggest that too much sugar is bad for you.

2. Excess sugar consumption can cause fatty liver disease

 

Lots of pre-packaged foods and soft drinks contain high-fructose corn syrup (HCFS). High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn and has a fructose concentration of between 55-90 per cent (remember, that troublesome sugar that we spoke about earlier?). In comparison, apples have just 5-10 per cent fructose (plus fibre, vitamins and minerals).

Scientists have found a direct link between the increased consumption of HCFS and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and is the strongest precursor to fatty liver disease - stronger even than eating a high-fat diet.

Even though here in Australia most of our soft drinks are made with sucrose (not HCFS), sucrose is still 50 per cent fructose. So there’s definitely a strong reason for kicking the soft drink habit and swapping for naturally sugar free brands.

3. Sugar = empty calories

 

Processed, packaged food and drinks are high in added sugars, so they’re high in calories. And, sadly, not all calories are created equal. Along with those high sugar levels, their nutritional value is low to non-existent. Could you imagine eating a half kilo of broccoli versus a half kilo of ice cream? You’d get full pretty quickly sitting down to the broccoli. But the ice cream? Not so much.

That’s because essential nutrients and fibre get stripped out during production. Nutritionists call the result ‘empty’ calories, because you get a ton of calories without any nutrients. What a scam!

When life gets busy, it’s easy to grab a packaged meal or processed snack. But going high-sugar / low-nutrition will rob your body of essential minerals and lead to those sugar highs and lows we mentioned earlier. Speaking of which…

4. It messes with your metabolism

 

Your body is unbelievably clever. After you eat of any type of sugar, your body releases the hormone insulin. Insulin’s job is to ‘pick up’ the glucose in your bloodstream and then ‘drive’ it into your cells (think of it as a glucose taxi). Then, once the glucose is inside your cells where it belongs, they use it up nice and quickly as energy.

If you eat too much sugar though, your blood glucose levels will rocket up (AKA a sugar rush). That means your body has to create a flood of insulin to deal with it all. And just as quickly as it appeared, all that glucose is gone, and your blood sugar drops (AKA a sugar crash).

Worst of all, if you’re eating foods with lots of fructose in them, the insulin gets overwhelmed and can’t transport it to your liver to transform it into glucose. What you’re left with is a hot mess and likely to have you feeling drained and hungry. That’s your body telling you that you need more sustainable, long-term energy (and probably some nutrients and fibre too!)

Long-term, your body won’t thank you if you keep neglecting nutritious, nourishing food in favour of highly processed, high-sugar, ‘empty’ calorie foods.

5. Sugar negatively impacts your brain power

 

OK, you know sugar’s bad for your heart and waistline, but did you know it can wreak havoc on your brain too? Your brain uses about 20 per cent of your body’s energy, which is massive. And your brain cells need glucose – the sugar your body breaks all carbs down into – to think clearly.

 

Effects of sugar on the brain

 

When your brain gets low on glucose, brain fog kicks in (OK, that’s not a medical term… but you know that feeling of confusion, forgetfulness and lack of focus).

So guess what happens when you reach for a sugar-laden treat? Your blood sugar spikes only to quickly crash back down. Then, as a result, you feel tired and unfocused.

Eating a lot of sugar can slow down how well your brain can think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention.

6. It affects your mental wellbeing

 

When you’re feeling fed up, down or anxious, it’s way too easy to reach for the lollies (or anything filled with sugar). When your blood sugar spikes, your levels of ‘feel-good’ hormone serotonin rocket up to the moon along with it.

But again, when the sugar falls back to Earth at high speed, you feel like crap. So you reach for more sugar. It’s a vicious cycle.

 

Can sugar cause anxiety and depression?

 

Stacks of studies show that people who eat processed, high-sugar foods are more likely to experience mental health problems than those who eat a healthy diet. Low mood, anxiety and depression are all associated with low serotonin levels.

Instead, reach for some good mood food to help with that gut-brain connection!

7. It makes you gain weight

 

The recommended limit of 6 teaspoons of sugar a day can add up quickly. Many packaged and processed foods are so loaded with sugar that there’s hardly any room for goodness. And of course, all that sugar can quickly lead to weight gain.

 

Does sugar lead to obesity?

 

Too much sweet stuff is one of the top reasons that two-thirds of Aussies are overweight or obese. Scary stuff.

Experts have particularly called out excessive amounts of unhealthy food and sugary drinks in causing weight gain.

Plenty of studies show that sugar is one of the chief culprits in ourobesity epidemic. It also increases the risk of serious health problems like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes,heart disease and some cancers.

8. Excess sugar intake has been linked to heart disease

 

Your heart is incredible. It beats around 108,000 times a day, keeping your blood pumping from head to toe.

And you need to take care of it, so it can take care of you.

Heart disease kicks in when plaque – the result of too much bad cholesterol – builds up in the arteries. That makes it hard work to get blood from the heart to the body! The good news is that healthy levels of good cholesterol help to keep the bad cholesterol in check. The bad news is that eating lots of sugar lowers good cholesterol levels.

As a result, the risk of heart disease increases. Experts now see sugar and excessive saturated fat as partners in crime when it comes to increasing bad cholesterol levels. (Plus, we talked about excess weight above, and fat around the tum may put people at higher risk of developing heart disease.)

The best way to beat these guys is simply to eat a healthy, wholefood, low-sugar diet.

9. Sugar can ramp up your inflammatory response

 

Your ‘inflammatory response’ is your body’s way of repairing damage of any kind. If you’re injured or have an infection, your immune system sets to work to kill off any nasties and create a safe healing area.

Sometimes, though, the response can go overboard. When that happens, your immune system can actually end up damaging healthy cells, causing pain and swelling.

 

Can sugar cause pain and inflammation?

 

Sugar compromises your immune system and ramps up its inflammatory response. When it does, you’re much more likely to feel the effects of that inflammation as pain.

And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that eating a diet full of veggies, fruits and whole grains can go a long way to keeping your body happy and pain-free.

10. It hampers your muscle building

 

Muscle growth requires energy. It also requires protein, as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

If you're super-active or love the gym, a little sugar can give you the short-term energy you need to fuel your muscles and keep your brain active. But most of us don’t do nearly enough exercise to justify the amount of sugar we eat and drink.  

If you really want to build muscle, any excess sugar consumption will only hamper your efforts as it’s likely to leave you with joint pain, stiffness and tension.

11. It means more trips to the dentist

 

Finally, sugar’s impact on your pearly whites is well-known. Toothache, tooth decay, pain and gum disease are all results of a sweet tooth.

That’s because bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugars you eat. They create an acid that eats away at your tooth enamel. And once that weakens, you’re more likely to get tooth decay.

Good dental hygiene is a non-negotiable if you want a solid set of teeth. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day will go a long way to a healthy mouth. So will avoiding sugar.

It’s time to ditch the sugar


Do you feel like you’re addicted to the sweetness of sugar? Is it time you put the sweet stuff on notice?

Whether you like just a little sweetness or have a raging sweet tooth, you’re probably eating far more sugar than you think.

Remember: WHO recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day. When you think about how much sugar hides in everyday foods like bread, soup, sauces and more, (not just the obvious lollies and cakes), it quickly adds up.

The best way to avoid it? Arm yourself with healthy, wholefood, low-sugar food and drink options and check the nutritional labels of your old favourites. By educating yourself and being prepared with alternatives you’ll be able to jump off that sugar rollercoaster faster than you think.

 




Nic Florido
Nic Florido

Author




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