Our first experiences with sugar occur when we realize that the sweet taste of fresh cream or 1st birthday cake is a lot better than pureed peas. This memory quickly fades, but the sweet taste of sugar never leaves us. The amount of sugar we consume and where it comes from has changed significantly over the course of our own lifetime. Sugar has harmful effects, its a toxin and there are many types of sugar that we ingest. Excessive amounts of sugar is the primary cause of obesity, diabetes and many other diseases that effect us.
Sugar Increases Risk of Heart Disease
A higher percentage of calories from added sugar are found associated with significantly increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD). Epidemiological studies suggest that people who consume about 15% of their daily calories from added sugar had 18% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared to people who took very little added sugar. When added sugar intake was over 21% of daily calories, the risk of death doubled and this phenomenon is found completely independent of other risk factors.
Let’s see how sugar increases the risk of heart disease:
1) Added sugar is found associated with dyslipidemia i.e. higher triglycerides, lower HDL (the good cholesterol) and higher LDL levels (the bad cholesterol) in the blood, which directly increases your risk for coronary heart disease.
2) Studies suggest that high levels of sugar in the blood trigger inflammation inside the body.
3) Research confirms that added sugar can increase your risk of high blood pressure.
Studies suggest that large amounts of fructose can raise almost all the major risk factors for heart disease in as little as 10 weeks. This explains the rise in obesity and related chronic illnesses with low-fat diets, where high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is used to make these low-fat foods palatable.
Besides increasing the overall risk for heart disease, a 2013 study has pinpointed that excess sugar can damage your heart, as a glucose metabolite (glucose 6-phosphate (G6P)) can cause changes in the muscle protein of your heart. These changes affect the pumping mechanism of your heart and lead to an increased risk for heart failure.
The Harmful Effects of Sugar
Cancer, the leading cause of death is a condition of uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells. Research studies suggest that people who consume a lot of sugar are at a higher risk of getting cancer. One reason for triggering this unusual growth could be inflammation and metabolic changes caused by high sugar consumption. Another reason is insulin resistance that is caused by high levels of added sugar in the diet.
Insulin is one of the key hormones that play significant role in regulating this sort of growth. A 2013 study showed that sugars in the intestine triggered formation of a hormone called GIP, which increases release of insulin by the pancreas. Some scientists believe that sugar actually affect the cells susceptibility to cancer formation.
Other studies suggest that sugar consumption not only increases chances of cancer production but also effect cancer survival, as high sugar and starch intake is found to be negatively associated with survival rates in both breast cancer and colon cancer patients.
Sugar causes Mood Disturbances
Added sugar in foods gives an initial high and then a crash, this rise and fall in blood sugar levels stimulate a positive feedback loop in the body and you start craving for more of sugary stuff. This series of highs and lows after eating sugar make you emotionally unstable, as you feel anxious, moody, exhausted and unable to concentrate. These symptoms are called Sugar blues.
This is especially true with children, who are diagnosed with ADHD. Psychiatrists like Dr. Linus Pauling believe that emotional disturbance is the first symptom of the inability of the human system to handle the stress of sugar dependency.
Research with hyperactive and learning disabled children shows dependence on a high level of sugar in the diets and an abnormally high incidence of low blood glucose, which indicates that their systems cannot handle it.
Even inquiry into the dietary history of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia reveals that their diet is rich in added sugar containing foods like sweets, candy, cakes and sweetened beverages. These foods have a stimulating effect on adrenals and therefore Schizophrenic patients are advised to follow a good nutritional program with elimination of sucrose and sucrose-rich foods.
Sugar is Bad for Your Teeth
Whenever you eat processed sugary food, you give the harmful bacteria in your mouth an opportunity to thrive and rot your teeth, so if you don’t want tooth carries, you should seriously cut back on your sugar intake.
Harvard professor Ernest Hooten once said “Let us cease pretending that toothbrushes and toothpaste are any more important than shoe brushes and shoe polish. It is store food that has given us store teeth.”
A recent research published in BMC Public Health also proves that sugars are the only cause of tooth decay in kids and adults. Researchers found that tooth decay, one of the most common non-infectious diseases in the world was far too high in the U.S., where about 60 to 90% of school-age children and 92% of adults experienced tooth decay. Sweetened beverages like sodas and fruit juices are the major sources of sugar in the Americans’ diet.
Added Sugar can cause Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Liver metabolizes fructose in the food, turn it into glycogen and store it. A little fructose in the diet such as from fruit is not a problem but when processed food laced with high amount of fructose enters the body, it overloads the liver (which is already full of glycogen) and forces it to turn the fructose into fat. When this condition is repeated frequently the fat build up overtime can lead to fatty liver and others chronic metabolic diseases.
Also, eating exceptionally large amounts of fructose taxes the liver, as it spends most of its energy turning fructose into other molecules and left with not much energy to perform its other functions. This energy depletion then leads to production of uric acid, which causes serious conditions like gout, kidney stones and high blood pressure.
In a 2012 paper in Nature, authors showed that sugar and alcohol have similar toxic effects on the liver. Keeping in mind these findings they suggested that limitations and warnings should be placed on sugar similar to the warnings seen on alcohol.
Sugar Accelerates Aging and Triggers Allergies
Added sugar in the food leads to spike in your insulin levels, which causes inflammation and in the long run leads to premature aging and scarring of your skin. Inflammation in your body produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, which result in sagging skin and wrinkles. In a 2009 study, glucose consumption was found positively associated with the aging of the cells.
Besides causing pre-mature aging and wrinkles, excess sugar can lead to cognitive decline. In an alarming study excess sugar consumption was found bad for your brain by causing deficiencies in memory and overall cognitive health.
Further, in a process called glycation, digested sugar also get permanently attached to the collagen in your skin that not only accelerates the effects of aging but also triggers allergic skin conditions like acne, eczema and rosacea. Studies suggest that sugar also assists in uncontrolled growth of yeast infections like Candida Albicans.
Sugar causes Leptin Resistance
Leptin is a hormone, which acts like an appetite thermostat by instructing the brain that it’s time to stop eating. Added sugar causes metabolic imbalances and makes this process go haywire that can lead to leptin resistance. A 2008 study found that excess fructose consumption is associated with leptin resistance, as insulin blocks leptin hormone’s signals to the brain, resulting in no satiety and uncontrolled eating of high fat, high sugar foods.
This process also signals the brain to increase energy storage and conserve energy usage triggering more fat accumulation and weight gain. Also leptin is the hormone that is supposed to suppress the release of a chemical “dopamine” in your brain, which gives you enjoyment and pleasure when you eat food. Therefore, if you are leptin-resistance dopamine will not be suppressed properly and you will feel intense food cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods that are impossible to resist even after you had enough.
Scientists believe insulin resistance triggers leptin resistance, so by reducing insulin levels (lowering sugar intake) you can improve ‘leptin signaling’ i.e. your brain’s ability to read leptin and control consumption of food.
So, start keeping a check on your sugar intake, it will not only help you lower your insulin levels but also reduce inflammation inside your body and make your immune system stronger to defend you against infectious and degenerative chronic diseases. Someone rightly said “You can change the quality of your life by changing the quality of carbohydrates in your diet”. For this substitute refined and processed food with natural whole foods (like whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds) that are local and seasonal. These whole natural foods contain various nutrients and fiber that make it impossible to eat the enormous amount of sugar that leads to insulin resistance.
Other simple sugars that have harmful effects on your body include fructose (as in fruit sugar, corn syrup), lactose (as in milk), sucrose (as in table sugar and brown sugar), maltose or malts (as in rice malt). So, you also need to limit addition of natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, fruit juices, palm sugar, molasses and honey to your food, as these also have similar effects to refined sugar inside your body.