Why Too Much Sugar Is Bad For You
Something that has been long known to contribute to a decline in health is sugar. Canadians consume an overwhelming amount of sugar each year almost 90 pounds worth! On average, males and females between the ages of 9 and 13 consume about 103 to 120 pounds of sugar a number that increases during teenage years, up to as much as 138 pounds. The primary source of sugar consumption in the younger generation is carbonated soft-drinks. However, it can also be found in other sources such as candy, and even fruits and vegetables. Sure, sugar can taste good, but it is having harmful, even life-threatening effects on our health.
Perhaps one of the reasons why Canadians are consuming so much sugar today is because we dont actually know how much were putting into our bodies. This is why in 2014, Health Canada proposed that changes be made to nutrition labels that would require companies to make it clear as to exactly how much sugar was going into packaged foods in the hope that it would deter individuals from eating unhealthy items and instead want to make healthier choices. The World Health Organization also came up with new guidelines that same year, stating that sugar should make up for less than 10 percent of our energy intake per day, which is a number that has already been far exceeded. They go on to add that if we cut that number in half to 5%, we would reap additional benefits.
Are All Added Sugars Created Equal
Scientifically speaking, there are no major distinguishable health benefits from one type of added sugar versus another, says Campbell. There are not any added sugars that are better than others. Added sugars are still added sugars, and no matter what form you consume them in, you are still putting yourself at increased risk for health issues.
One exception: Pure maple syrup and local raw honey because they contain potential health benefits not found in other added sugars, adds Ruth. These are more expensive, which is the main reason why you don’t see them listed as ingredients on most nutrition facts labels. Of course, at home, you may choose to use these ingredients or dates in lieu of traditional sugars when you’re baking or sweetening your food.
Natural Vs Added Sugar: Whats The Difference
Natural sugars are the ones found in whole, unprocessed foods such as the fructose in bananas or berries, or lactose in a glass of skim milk, says Vanessa Voltolina, RDN, a clinical dietitian in Westchester, New York.
Foods with natural sugars tend to be low in calories and sodium, and high in water content and many important vitamins and minerals, she explains. The fiber in fruits slows down how quickly your body digests it, so you dont get the same sugar spike you get after eating a doughnut, Voltolina says. And the lactose in milk comes with a healthy serving of protein that provides sustained energy, so you feel full longer than after a sugar-packed soda.
Added sugars, like the ones in doughnuts and soda, are the ones to be more concerned about. Put simply, added sugar is any sugar that gets added to a food either by you, a chef, or a food manufacturer before it goes in your mouth, notes the U.S. Department of Agriculture .
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Experts Fear Sugar May Kill You Sooner
Laura A. Schmidt, a professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, worries about all the damage sugar is doing to our bodies. Thats why she became lead investigator for UCSFs SugarScience research site, developed as an authoritative source for the scientific evidence about sugar and its impact on health. Here, she explains some of her concerns:
Readers Digest Canada: With all the negative health news about sugar, should we switch to something else?
Schmidt: The evidence is mounting against sucralose, saccharine and aspartame. Some research shows artificial sweeteners damage the microbiome in the gut. Theyre also associated with weight gain and glucose intolerance, the two things people use them to prevent. Based on what we know, I wouldnt consume those productsor give them to my kids.
How do you keep added sugar from seeping into your own diet?
I just dont have it around the house. Take all that stuff out of your environment. Once you start cutting back, youll lose your sweet tooth. Its a palate phenomenon, and it doesnt take long. Youll notice that you can suddenly taste the natural sweetness in unprocessed food, and youll start to find processed products cloying and unpleasant.
Try these simple tricks to cut calories without sacrificing taste.
Sugar Is Intensely Pleasurable So We Have To See It As A Cardinal Sin Alan Levinovitz
Sugar is intensely pleasurable, so we have to see it as a cardinal sin. When we see things in simple good and evil binaries, it becomes unthinkable that this evil thing can exist in moderation. This is happening with sugar, he says.
He argues that that seeing food in such extremes can make us anxious about what were eating and add a moral judgment onto something as necessary, and as everyday, as deciding what to eat.
We demonise the things we find difficult to resist including sugar
Taking sugar out of our diets can even be counterproductive: it can mean replacing it with something potentially more calorific, such as if you substitute a fat for a sugar in a recipe.
And amid the rising debate around sugar, we risk confusing those foods and drinks with added sugar that lack other essential nutrients, like soft drinks, with healthy foods that have sugars, like fruit.
One person who struggled with this distinction is 28-year-old Tina Grundin of Sweden, who says she used to think all sugars were unhealthy. She pursued a high-protein, high-fat vegan diet, which she says led to an undiagnosed eating disorder.
When I started throwing up after eating, I knew I couldnt go on much longer. Id grown up fearing sugar in all forms, she says. Then I realised there was a difference between added sugar and sugar as a carbohydrate and I adopted a high-fructose, high-starch diet with natural sugars found in fruit, vegetables, starches and legumes.
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When Does Sugar Become Bad For You
Like most things in life, the poison is in the dose.
As weve seen, your body actually needs sugars, to the point that itll manufacture some even if you avoid all carbohydrates.
We already discussed that body fatness is the main driver of type-II diabetes and obesity. But sugar can contribute to overeating. And, too much sugar also results in an increase in advanced glycation end products, and so in skin damage and a greater risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Thats why added sugar can be dangerous: not because its as addictive as cocaine.
The real danger with sugar is not that its inherently fattening. A gram of sugar is still just 4 calories. And 4 calories will not make you fat.
However, you can eat a lot of sugar and not feel full. And thats the typical pattern. You eat some sugar and then some moreand then some moreand next thing you know a box of cookies are gone, a can of soda, and sugary coffee drink are all goneand youre still feeling hungry.
Added sugars are too easy to over-consume. Thats true of every added sugar, no matter how healthy-sounding it may be.
Sugar Makes It Hard To Concentrate
You might want to cut down on sugar if you experience a spike in your energy levels after eating sugary snacks, which can make you feel more awake and alert but this is followed by a crash that can make you feel tired and groggy again.
These sugar crashes are bad for you because they can also make you feel scatterbrained and unfocused especially if they happen several times throughout the day.
So, if you want to be more productive at work , it might be helpful to cut down on sugary snacks now.
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Added Sugar Is High In Fructose Which Can Overload Your Liver
In order to understand what is so bad about sugar, you need to understand what it is made of.
Before sugar enters the bloodstream from the digestive tract, it is broken down into two simple sugars glucose and fructose.
- Glucose is found in every living cell on the planet. If we dont get it from the diet, our bodies produce it.
- Fructose is different. Our bodies do not produce it in any significant amount and there is no physiological need for it.
The thing with fructose is that it can only be metabolized by the liver in any significant amounts.
This is not a problem if we eat a little bit or we just finished an exercise session. In this case, the fructose will be turned into glycogen and stored in the liver until we need it .
However, if the liver is full of glycogen , eating a lot of fructose overloads the liver, forcing it to turn the fructose into fat .
When repeatedly eating large amounts of sugar, this process can lead to fatty liver and all sorts of serious problems .
Keep in mind that all of this does NOT apply to fruit. It is almost impossible to over-eat fructose by eating fruit.
There is also massive individual variability here. People who are healthy and active can tolerate more sugar than people who are inactive and eat a Western, high-carb, high-calorie diet.
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Teen Boys Are The Biggest Sugar Enthusiasts
The average Canadian teenage boy is consuming 172 grams of sugar per day, according to the Canadian Community Health Survey. Excess sugar is linked to weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, cavities and high cholesterol in children, while obesity rates for young people have nearly tripled in the last 30 years, according to the Government of Canada.
Can Cause Weight Gain
Rates of obesity are rising worldwide and added sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, is thought to be one of the main culprits.
Sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas, juices and sweet teas are loaded with fructose, a type of simple sugar.
Consuming fructose increases your 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 your body to stop eating .
In other words, sugary beverages dont curb your hunger, making it easy to quickly consume a high number of liquid calories. This can lead to weight gain.
Research has consistently shown that people who drink sugary beverages, such as soda and juice, weigh more than people who dont .
Also, drinking a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to an increased amount of visceral fat, a kind of deep belly fat associated with conditions like diabetes and heart disease .
Consuming too much added sugar, especially from sugary beverages, increases your risk of weight gain and can lead to visceral fat accumulation.
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What Too Much Sugar Does To Your Health
The high amounts of refined and added sugars in snack foods, sweets, and sodas have been linked with weight gain and the development of obesity in the United States, as they tend to be calorie dense with none of the nutritive benefits, says Voltolina. These types of sugars can cause rapid increases in blood sugar, which may increase the risk of insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes.
Extra sugar may also increase risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, as well as increased triglyceride levels, which may contribute to cardiovascular disease. In a Circulation, the American Heart Association linked high intakes of added sugars with heightened rates of obesity and heart disease.
To avoid these risks, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 20202025 recommends limiting added sugar to less than 10 percent of your daily calories.
The AHA recommends women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily , and that men should limit their added sugar intake to 9 tsp or less . If youre adding 2 tsp of sugar to your daily coffee, eating cereal or granola that contains added sugar, and drizzling a store-bought salad dressing on your greens, you may be at or near your daily added-sugar limit by lunchtime even without having any candy or dessert.
How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much
Prepackaged foods containing added sugar don’t come with the health benefits of whole foods, but, instead of trying to avoid added sugar altogether, Sessions suggests knowing the recommended limits and making sure you’re reading nutrition labels.
“Health experts generally recommend keeping added sugar to just 10% of your daily calories, and some propose this percentage should be even lower,” says Sessions. “Unfortunately, the average adult consumes quite a bit more than what’s recommended.”
For a 2,000-calorie diet, the 2015 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that:
- Men should have no more than 9 tsp. equivalents of added sugar per day
- Women should have no more than 6 tsp. of added sugar per day
“Fortunately, ‘Added Sugar’ amounts are now typically listed under the carbohydrates section of most nutrition labels. Take advantage of this!” adds Sessions. “If you don’t read the ingredient list of a food item, it’s like buying a house without ever going inside something you probably wouldn’t do. I always recommend flipping the package over and scanning the nutrition label.”
When checking nutrition labels, you may not only be stunned by just how much added sugar some of your favorite snacks contain, but you may also be surprised to find that added sugar sneaks its way into a lot of food items you may not have expected. This is especially important if you’re looking for ways to cut some sugar out of your diet.
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Added Sugar Contains No Essential Nutrients And Is Bad For Your Teeth
Youve probably heard this a million times before but its worth repeating.
Added sugars contain a whole bunch of calories with NO essential nutrients.
For this reason, they are called empty calories.
There are no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar just pure energy.
When people eat up to 10-20% of calories as sugar , this can become a major problem and contribute to nutrient deficiencies.
Sugar is also very bad for the teeth, because it provides easily digestible energy for the bad bacteria in the mouth .
Excess Sugar Is Linked To Dementia
In 2018, researchers at the University of Bath found a molecular link between sugary diets and early Alzheimers. The scientists discovered that glycationa reaction through which glucose affects cellscauses damage to an important enzyme thats involved in the reduction of abnormal protein buildup in the brain, which is characteristic of the disease.
Learn how to spot the early signs of dementia.
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Sugar Increases Calorie Intake
One of the things we know for certain about weight gain is that calorie surpluses are the key dictators of weight gain.
This suggests that sugar may indeed play a role in weight gain as it increases total calorie intake.
Due to this increase of sugar to make foods more pleasant, people are going to a) consume a food that now has a higher calorie content, and b) may be more likely to consume more of that food since it tastes a little better.
This inherent increase of calories can often lead to fat gain if not consumed in moderation.
When people consume food containing added sugar, they tend to consume more calories. However, when people consume sugar just by itself, they do not consume large amounts of it.
A study completed by Richter and Campbell of Johns Hopkins University and published in the Journal of Nutrition in 1940 found that when given access to pure raw sugar separate from their food, rodents consumed the same amount of calories as they did when there was no sugar present. They found that it is the combination of sugar mixed in with the food that makes them consume more calories.
Ok, so we know that adding sugar to food can increase our calorie consumption which can lead to weight gain. What about the direct fattening effects of sugar?