The harmful effects of sugar on your body, see details

Sugar is a common product that is used in almost every household and is found in every kitchen. It is the generic name for sweet-tasting soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food. Simple sugars, also called monosaccharides, include glucose, fructose, and galactose. White sugar is a refined form of sucrose, which is a disaccharide or compound sugar.

Five important monosaccharides. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sugars are found in the tissues of most plants. Honey and fruit are rich natural sources of simple sugars. Sucrose is especially concentrated in sugar cane and sugar beet, making them ideal for efficient commercial extraction to produce refined sugar. However, when we talk about sugar as laymen, what we tend to think of is the white refined sugar that sits in a jar on our kitchen shelves. Although it is a very common ingredient, it is not the most harmless. In this article, we will discuss some of the main harmful effects of sugar on the body.

Harmful effects of sugar on the body

  • Causes weight gain: Research shows that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages tend to weigh more. Sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas, juices, and sweet teas are full of fructose, a type of simple sugar. Consuming fructose increases hunger and food cravings more than glucose, the main type of sugar found in starchy foods. Additionally, excessive consumption of fructose can cause resistance to leptin, an important hormone that regulates hunger and tells the body to stop eating. So, in short, sugary drinks do not suppress hunger, which facilitates the rapid intake of a large number of liquid calories. This can lead to weight gain.
  • Increases the risk of heart disease: One of the main side effects of sugar consumption is an increased risk of heart disease. Evidence suggests that diets high in sugar can lead to obesity, inflammation, and high levels of triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure. These are all major risk factors for heart disease. Additionally, consuming too much sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, has been linked to atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by fatty deposits clogging the arteries, ultimately leading to complications related to the circulatory system.
  • Increases the risk of type 2 diabetes: The pancreas pumps out insulin when food is consumed. However, if there is excessive sugar intake, the body stops responding properly to insulin. As a result, the pancreas starts pumping out even more insulin. Eventually, the overworked pancreas will break down and blood sugar levels will rise. It is a major cause of type 2 diabetes later in life. A population-based study involving more than 175 countries found that the risk of developing diabetes increased by 1.1% for every 150 calories of sugar, or about one can of soda, consumed per day
  • It causes caries: With all the other life-threatening effects of sugar, it’s sometimes easy to forget the most basic cosmetic damage it causes. When left on the teeth, sugar causes cavities more effectively than any other food. Bacteria found on teeth thrive on sugar and can grow at an alarming rate, thus causing tooth decay. This can cause pain or even cause the teeth to fall out.
  • It can cause acne and skin aging: Sweet foods quickly raise blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production, and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development. many population studies also show that rural communities that consume traditional, unprocessed foods have nearly nonexistent rates of acne compared to more urban, high-income areas. Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are compounds formed from reactions between sugar and protein in your body. They are believed to play a key role in skin aging. Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar leads to the production of AGEs, which can lead to premature skin aging. AGEs damage collagen and elastin, which are proteins that help skin stretch and maintain its youthful appearance.
  • It leads to irritability: A diet high in added sugar and processed foods can increase your chances of developing depression. The occasional candy or cookie can provide a quick burst of energy, also known as a “sugar high,” by quickly raising your blood sugar levels. However, when levels drop as cells absorb sugar, it’s common to feel jittery and anxious. If someone consumes a lot of sugar too often, the sugar begins to affect mood beyond the usual 3pm slump. Studies have linked high sugar intake to a higher risk of depression in adults.
  • It can lead to fatty liver: The abundance of added sugar likely contains fructose or high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is processed in the liver and in large amounts can damage the liver. When fructose is broken down in the liver, it is transformed into energy or stored as glycogen. However, the liver can only store so much glycogen before excess amounts are converted to fat. Large amounts of added sugar in the form of fructose overload the liver, leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition characterized by excessive accumulation of fat in the liver.
  • It causes joint pain: Research shows that regular consumption of sugar-sweetened soda is associated with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis in some women, including those with late-onset RA. Consuming too much sugar can lead to systemic inflammation, which can lead to joint pain. Reducing the amount of sugar in the diet has been found to produce significant results in people suffering from joint pain.

All said and done, you don’t have to completely eliminate added sugar from your life to be healthy. Different health organizations have different recommendations for the amount of sugar that is acceptable to consume per day. However, everyone agrees that there is a place for some sugar in a healthy diet.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines say an adult eating 2,000 calories a day should have less than 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams, of added sugar daily. This is approximately the amount in 473 ml of cola. The American Heart Association says women should have less than 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams, and men should have less than 9 teaspoons, or 36 grams, per day.

After all, the body doesn’t exactly need sugar. So having less is better. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have one at all. As with everything else, the key to health, even if you consume sugar, is moderation.

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