Harmful effects of sugar on your body, see details

Sugar is a common item used in almost every household and 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 a compound sugar.

Five important monosaccharides. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sugars are found in the tissues of most plants. Honey and fruit are abundant natural sources of simple sugars. Sucrose is especially concentrated in sugarcane and sugar beet, making them ideal for efficient commercial extraction to make refined sugar. However, when we talk about sugar as laymen, what we tend to think about is the white refined sugar that is sitting in a jar on our kitchen shelves. Though it is a very common ingredient, it is not the most harmless. In this article, we will discuss some of the major 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 drinks like sodas, juices and sweet teas are loaded with fructose, a type of simple sugar. Consuming fructose increases hunger and desire for food more than glucose, the main type of sugar found in starchy foods. Additionally, excessive fructose consumption may cause resistance to leptin, an important hormone that regulates hunger and tells the body to stop eating. So, in short, sugary beverages don’t curb the hunger, making it easy to quickly consume a high number of liquid calories. This can lead to weight gain.
  • Increases risk of heart disease: One of the major side effects of consuming sugar is the increased risk of heart disease. Evidence suggests that high-sugar diets can lead to obesity, inflammation and high triglyceride, blood sugar and blood pressure levels. These are all major risk factors for heart disease. Additionally, consuming too much sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened drinks, has been linked to atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by fatty, artery-clogging deposits that ultimately leads to complications related to the circulatory system.
  • Increases risk of type 2 diabetes: Pancreas pumps out insulin upon consumption of food. However if there is an excessive intake of sugar, the body stops responding properly to insulin. As a result of this, pancreas starts pumping out even more insulin. Eventually, the overworked pancreas will break down and the blood sugar levels will rise. This is a main cause for type 2 diabetes later in life. A population study comprising over 175 countries found that the risk of developing diabetes grew by 1.1% for every 150 calories of sugar, or about one can of soda, consumed per day
  • Causes tooth decay: With all the other life-threatening effects of sugar, sometimes it is easy to forget the most basic cosmetic damage it does. When it stays on the teeth, sugar causes decay more efficiently than any other food. The bacteria present on teeth thrive on sugar and can grow at an alarming rate, thus causing decay. This can lead to pain, or even cause teeth to fall out.
  • Can cause acne and age the skin: Sugary foods quickly spike 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 have also shown that rural communities that consume traditional, non-processed foods have almost non-existent rates of acne, compared to more urban, high-income areas.Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are compounds formed by reactions between sugar and protein in your body. They are suspected to play a key role in skin aging. Consuming a diet high in refined carbs and sugar leads to the production of AGEs, which may cause the skin to age prematurely. AGEs damage collagen and elastin, which are proteins that help the skin stretch and keep its youthful appearance.
  • Leads to irritability: A diet high in added sugar and processed foods may increase your chances of developing depression. The occasional candy or cookie can give a quick burst of energy which is also known as “sugar high”, by raising your blood sugar levels fast. However, when  levels drop as the cells absorb the sugar, it is common to feel jittery and anxious. If somebody consumes a lot of sugar way too often, sugar starts to have an effect on the mood beyond that goes beyond a regular 3 p.m. slump. Studies have linked a high sugar intake to a greater risk of depression in adults.
  • Can lead to fatty liver: An abundance of added sugar likely contains fructose or high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is process 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 turned into 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 fat buildup in the liver.
  • Causes joint pain: Research shows that regularly consuming 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 may lead to joint pain. Reducing the amount of sugar in diet has been seen to produce significant results for people suffering from joint pain.

All said and done, it is not mandatory to cut added sugar out of your life completely to be healthy. Different health organizations have different recommendations for the amount of sugar that is okay for consumption per day. However, they all agree that there’s room for some sugar in a healthy diet.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines say that an adult eating 2,000 calories per day should have less than 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams, of added sugar daily. That’s roughly the amount in a 473 ml 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.

Ultimately, the body doesn’t exactly need sugar. So having less is better. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have any at all, though. As with everything else, the key to being healthy even if you are consuming sugar is moderation.

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