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The Terrifying Dangers of Eating Too Much Sugar
- Though many of us consider fat to be the most dangerous dietary substance around – the truth is that sugar is far more terrifying, and threatening when we look at it in detail. People are pre-disposed to become addicted to sugar, and our cravings for this substance are growing.
- Over the last century, our cravings for sugar have increased significantly. Today, we consume about our own body weight in sugar every year.
- There is no nutritional value to sugar whatsoever. Though sugar can come in many different forms – such as glucose, fructose, and corn syrup, it contains no protein, vitamins, nutrients, healthy fats, or enzymes.
- We all know that sugar is bad for our teeth and can prompt greater risks of obesity thanks to the huge amounts of empty calories it contains, but the dangers of sugar go far beyond these obvious problems. Sugar also stresses the liver, leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and may also cause insulin resistance that prompts type 2 diabetes.
- Studies have found that consumption of sugar can be linked to cancerous growths, and also has a negative effect on our cholesterol levels and inflammation that raises our risk of heart disease. In other words, sugar makes us more susceptible to some of the deadliest diseases in the world.
- Sugar can also prompt leptin resistance, which convinces us we’re starving, so that we over-eat, and suffer from excessive weight gain or sleep problems.
- Perhaps most importantly, sugar is incredibly addictive. It’s close in chemical composition to cocaine, and much more accessible. Because it releases huge doses of dopamine, when we eat sugar, we become caught in a loop of positive reinforcement, which can make sugar habits extremely difficult to break.
Our Sugar Cravings are Growing
For a long time, we’ve victimized fat as the number one bad thing to have in our meals, yet the truth is that those cravings for candy bars or chocolate cakes in between meals could be a lot worse. Not only is sugar easier to consume in large doses than fat, but it also has addictive qualities that could mean you end up over-indulging day, after day.
It’s worth noting that having an addiction to sugar is more natural than you might think. After all, sweet is the first taste that human beings prefer from birth, and when you consume carbohydrates, you get a healthy dose of “serotonin” in your brain – the pleasure chemical responsible for making you feel great. On top of that, the comforting taste of sugar also helps to release endorphins throughout your body that leave you feeling relaxed, calm, and even offer something of a natural “high”. In other words, if it wasn’t enough that sugar tastes great – it also creates all the chemical reactions that you need to create an addiction.
According to the American Heart Association, the average American eats about 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day. The recommended maximum amount is only 6 teaspoons for women, and 9 for men. What’s more, sugar exists in a range of forms beside the white powdered stuff you can pick up at your grocery store. There are negative effects associated with sugar in all its shapes and sizes – from fructose to corn syrup, and we’re consuming more of this dangerous substance than ever before.
Studies have even shown that the consumption of sugar-laden processed foods cost the American public over $54 billion in dental bills each year. While the national average consumption of sugar during 1915 was about fifteen to twenty pounds per person, today’s individual eats around their own weight in sugar, plus an additional 20 pounds of corn syrup.
While some people might suggest that small amounts of sugar in moderation aren’t that dangerous – it’s our desire to over-consume, and the addictive nature of the substance that threatens our health. The human body simply can’t tolerate the amount of refined carbohydrates we poison it with each year – and our vital organs are becoming increasingly more damaged.
So, What’s in Sugar?
While sugar is present naturally in a lot of different foods – by itself, it contains no protein, nutrients, healthy fats, or enzymes. In other words, it’s nothing more than empty calories that physically remove minerals from the body during digestion.
When most people mention sugar, they’re referring to a mixture of fructose and glucose – both simple sugars contained in various foods. Other common forms of sugar include:
- Table sugar, known as disaccharide sucrose (half glucose, half fructose).
- High fructose corn syrup – which is about 55% fructose.
- Sugar alcohols like glycerol, sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, and maltitol. These substances are neither alcohols nor sugars – but are often used as sweeteners. Problematically, they can be absorbed incompletely by the small intestine, leading to problems with bloating, flatulence and diarrhea.
- Sucralose – a form of sweetener similar to saccharin and aspartame.
- Agave syrup – often advertised as natural but is usually very processed, with about 80% fructose content. Many of these syrups end up having no resemblance to their original agave plant.
What are The Dangers of Eating Too Much Sugar?
Speak to any health professional, and they’ll tell you that sugar comes with a host of negative side effects that can range from the more obvious problems like tooth decay and obesity, to far more surprising issues like liver stress.
The following are just some of the terrifying dangers that come with your average sugary treat.
1. Sugar is Bad for Your Teeth
We’ve already established that added sugars like fructose, corn syrup, and sucrose contain no essential nutrients, and instead pack your food with extra calories – which is terrible for anyone trying to lose weight. Sugar has no proteins, minerals, or vitamins to speak of – which means that you’re eating it for the sheer sake of the “pleasure” response it gives your brain.
Of course, another big issue with sugar is that it is terrible for your teeth. The reason for this isn’t that the sugar itself actually rots your teeth – but that it gives easy-to-digest energy to the bad bacteria that naturally lives in your mouth throughout the day. In other words, you’re turbo-charging the things that eat away at the enamel that protects your teeth from damage.
2. Sugar is a Leading Cause of Obesity
When we consume sugar, the way that our brains and hormones respond can be a recipe for disaster in terms of fat gain. Not only does eating sugar lead to decreased levels of satiety, but people often become addicted to the pleasure response that comes from eating sugar. In other words, the more you consume these empty calories, the more you want to keep eating them.
Various pieces of research have shown that the people who eat the largest amounts of sugar are often the most likely to become obese or overweight – regardless of their age group. However, studies indicate that the link between sugar and obesity is particularly strong in children – where a daily serving of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda could be linked to a 60% increase in obesity risk.
3. Sugar Stresses the Liver
When you eat sugar – particularly the forms of sugar that are high in fructose – this substance is broken down in the liver. If your levels of glycogen within the liver are low – for instance because you’ve been exercising or working out, then the fructose will replace the glycogen you’re missing. The problem is that most people don’t eat a lot of sugar after a workout, which means their livers are already full of glycogen.
The liver can only metabolize so much fructose at any given time, and most of the time, it works by turning the sugars you eat into fats. While some of this fat can be shipped out of your body, part of it will almost always stay within the liver. This means that over time you end up being more at risk of suffering from problems like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
While problems such as this are unlikely to happen with an over-indulgence in fruit, and for people who live an active, healthy lifestyle, inactive individuals eating a western, high-calorie diet are particularly at risk.
4. Sugar Causes Insulin Resistance
One of the most important hormones in your body, insulin is responsible for managing the way that glucose enters the bloodstream – so that you can burn that source instead of fat for energy. Having too much glucose in your system is highly toxic, and can lead to serious conditions including blindness, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Obviously, the more sugar you place into your body to be converted into glucose, the more problems your body has when it comes to converting that substance into energy – which leaves excess sugar floating in your blood. This eventually means that insulin stops working as it should because cells become resistant to it. Insulin resistance then leads to many potential diseases, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.
5. Insulin Resistance Can Lead to Type 2 Diabetes
As your cells become more resistant to the effects of insulin, the cells in your pancreas will attempt to manage the problem by creating even more insulin. This is often essential, because hugely elevated levels of blood sugar can lead to serious harm.
Over time, as insulin resistance continues to worsen, the pancreas will not be able to keep up with the demand required to keep blood sugar levels minimal. At this point, blood sugar levels will begin to skyrocket – leading to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Many studies have found that people who drink sugary beverages and consume higher amounts of sugar have a much larger risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes – up to 83% higher in fact.
6. Sugar Has Been Linked to Cancer
One of the most frightening words in the medical dictionary, cancer is a leading cause of death throughout the world. Something that occurs with all forms of cancer, is the uncontrolled multiplication and growth of cells.
Insulin is one of the key hormones in regulating cell growth, and because of this, many scientists believe that consistently elevated levels of insulin may contribute to cancer. The metabolic problems that are associated with the consumption of sugar are a known problem in driving inflammation – which is yet another contributor to cancer.
Over the years, numerous studies have indicated that people who consume large amounts of sugar are generally at a much higher risk level for getting cancer.
7. Sugar Promotes Overeating
Many people consider all calories to be evil – particularly when they’re on a diet. However, this isn’t true. All food contains calories, and we need calories to survive. However, it’s worth noting that not all calories are created equal. Different foods can lead to different effects on our brains, and the hormones that control the way our body works.
In a study conducted on the effects of eating sugar, people drank a glucose-sweetened or fructose-sweetened drink. After they consumed this beverage, the drinkers of fructose found that they had much less activity in the satiety parts of their brain – and often felt hungrier.
An additional study also found that fructose was not as effective as lowering the hormone “ghrelin” in comparison to glucose.
8. Sugar Raises Cholesterol
Although many people prefer to blame things like saturated fat for increased risk of heart disease – the number one killer in the world – the truth is that sugar might be the culprit.
In fact, studies show that large amounts of fructose – not fat, is responsible for raising bad cholesterol (LDL), oxidized LDL, and triglycerides. At the same time, fructose increases abdominal obesity risks, insulin levels, and blood glucose. The result of various studies into the connection between sugar and cholesterol is that regular consumption of sugar can significantly raise your chances of suffering from heart disease.
9. Sugar Contributes to Leptin Resistance
Known as the “obesity” hormone, scientists first considered leptin in treatments for weight loss when it was discovered in 1994. However, leptin is also something worth considering in relation to the problem of sugar consumption.
Leptin is a protein that is made within the fat cells. It circulates throughout the brain and the blood stream – informing your brain that you have enough energy to function as normal. In simple terms, leptin is like the messenger that checks on your fat cells, and uses the information it gathers to inform your brain that you’re full, satisfied, and ready for action.
If you suffer from leptin resistance, then your body no longer tells your brain that you’re at the right energy thresh-hold. This means that your body starts to believe that you’re in a state of starvation – pushing you to eat more and more. Studies have shown that sugar consumption can lead to leptin resistance, which in turn leads to trouble sleeping, cravings, and excessive weight gain.
10. Sugar Is Addictive
Finally, perhaps one of the biggest dangers of sugar is that it’s so addictive. Because of the massive dopamine release that sugar causes, many of us respond to it in the exact same way as we would to many different types of drug.
If you have a susceptibility to addiction – known to some as an “addictive personality” you might find that you’re more likely to become addicted to sugar and junk foods than other people. The reason for this is that eating these foods gives you a much higher dopamine release than any other food you would find in nature.
Consuming sugar effectively creates a cascade of hormones that starts a loop for positive feedback in the body which encourages you to eat, drink, and consume more sugar. Centuries ago when food was scarce and we needed to eat more foods in the summer to survive the winter – this response was a survival instinct – now, it’s nothing more than a dangerous addiction.
According to Dr. David Rueben, it may be easier to understand the danger of sugar if we look at it for what it is. In simple terms, sugar is not a food – it’s a pure chemical that comes from plant sources. Sugar is purer then cocaine – a substance that it resembles in many ways. The chemical form of sugar has 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, and 11 oxygen atoms. The only real difference between cocaine and sugar, is the presence of nitrogen in cocaine.